The biggest problem with the Star Wars prequels starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the films didn't feel like the Star Wars franchise that began in 1977. George Lucas preferred to handle the load himself with the prequels and cared more about selling toys to kids and basically creating a demo for Industrial Light & Magic showing the world he could create a galaxy far, far away with just a green screen, camera and computer. Enter Disney who purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. and immediately put into production a new Star Wars trilogy with a tale built off the events following Return of the Jedi. The Mouse handed the reigns over to long time fan and big time Hollywood director J.J. Abrams. Lucky for Star Wars fans, the franchise we all loved is now back up on its feet again in a big way with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
First thing J.J. does right is get his talent and his production away from the green screens that Lucas relied so heavily on the last time around. The physical sets and exotic locations are back, it helps for the actors to have something to interact with. The Force Awakens looks like Episodes IV-VI with some obvious modern-day bells and whistles to enhance the viewing experience. For one, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most beautifully shot film in the series when it comes to cinematography. The audience had been accustomed to seeing the ships only in space, but seeing Tie Fighters appear on the horizon and snowy shots filled with lightsabers illuminating the winter darkness is a sight to behold.
The look and feel of Star Wars is back in The Force Awakens, which should bring comfort to fans left disappointed by the lifeless prequels. What also is present in The Force Awakens is a smooth transition from this new installment in the series from the last. By having familiar faces such as General Leia, Chewbacca and our favorite smuggler Han Solo interact and help our new players Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) in their new journey, the audience has an easier time accepting the new participants in the franchise. The new players are a thousand times better than the cardboard characters from last time around in Episodes I-III and the fact that our old legends are willing to help these new heroes makes us like them even more.
Now the big questions is where does this new addition in the Star Wars legacy rank among the other films? The Force Awakens is definitely not in The Empire Strikes Back territory, but it's still an entertaining nostalgic movie experience that sits in the top 4 of Star Wars films in this critics' opinion. The new film mirrors Episode IV: A New Hope pretty much to a tee with our new heroes being guided by figures of the past to take on a new evil threat. Star Wars: The Force Awakens loses a few points on the originality scale for that, but still the film is a good start that will probably evolve into an even bigger and better installment next time around, now that the pesky origin story portion of the new trilogy is over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is full of Sci-Fi action, scenes to reminisce over that will take you back to the past, jaw dropping moments that will change the franchise forever and a final scene that will have fans wanting more. It's exactly what you want from a Star Wars movie.
Overall, I give Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3 out of 4 stars.
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