‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: MovieMantz Review

Access Hollywood’s Scott Mantz weighs in on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and says the latest installment in the franchise strikes back!

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-MovieMantz-Review
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: MovieMantz Review (Lucasfilm Ltd)
  • “Star Wars:
    The Force Awakens”
  • Starring: John Boyega,
    Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
  • Directed by: JJ
    Abrams
  • Rating: 4 out of
    5

From
one “Star Wars” fan to another, it’s about damn time…

More
than 10 years after the release of the last “Star Wars” prequel, “Revenge
of the Sith,” and over 32 years after “Return of the Jedi” concluded
the original trilogy, “Star Wars” returns with a vengeance that not
only recaptures the magic of that timeless phenomenon, but also wipes the slate
clean after the disappointing one-two-three punch of those inferior prequels.

No
question about it, this is the one we’ve been waiting for, and it was oh-so
very well worth the wait.  “The
Force Awakens” not only represents a welcome return to form for the
beloved series that first debuted in 1977 and changed the face of Hollywood
forever, but it’s also a rousing, exciting and incredibly entertaining stand-alone
film that’s bound to introduce the “Star Wars” legacy to a whole new
generation of fans.

“The
Force Awakens” has a lot riding on it, especially because it represents a
series of firsts, and on so many crucial levels: It’s the first “Star Wars”
film to be released through Disney, which purchased Lucasfilm for more than $4
billion in 2012; it’s the first in the series to be made without the direct involvement
of its creator, George Lucas; it’s the first film to premiere in December
instead of May; it’s the first “Star Wars” movie to be made by the
director of two “Star Trek” films, JJ Abrams; and it’s the first part
of not only a brand new trilogy, but also a series of stand-alone spinoff
movies.

But
“The Force Awakens” also represents the return of several key players
that made the Original Trilogy so brilliant in the first place.  Of course, there’s Oscar-winning composer
John Williams, whose scores for the previous films were among the very best in
motion picture history.  Then there’s
co-screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote the screenplays for both 1980’s “The
Empire Strikes Back” (the best “Star Wars” movie, by far) and 1983’s
“Return of the Jedi.”  But
without question, it’s the return of original cast members Harrison Ford,
Carrie Fisher and…well, maybe a few other familiar faces that really make “The
Force Awakens” feel like a vintage “Star Wars” movie.

PHOTOS: ‘The Force Awakens’ Hollywood Premiere

Taking
place more than 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi,” everyone
seems to have forgotten about the great battle so long ago in that galaxy far,
far away.  Though the Rebellion was
victorious, out of the ashes of the defeated Empire comes an all new and
potentially more powerful threat called the First Order.  Its evil leader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), has
vowed to pick up where ominous Darth Vader left off, leaving a whole new
generation of freedom fighters to stand in his way.  But in order to be truly victorious, old
friends and new will have to search the galaxy to find the one person who can
once again restore balance to the power of the Force: Luke Skywalker.

Eschewing
the reliance on computer-generated visual effects that all but overwhelmed the
three “Star Wars” prequels, “The Force Awakens” marks a
return to more practical sets, models and stunts that make the film more
visceral, engaging and exciting.  This is
movie magic at its finest, but it never threatens to overpower the scope, the
story or the refreshing and fully-realized characters.  The new cast members led by John Boyega,
Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver give superb performances, which is
only surpassed by the welcomed (and chill-inducing) sight of returning players
Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, among others. 
And screenwriters JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt juggle
the multiple storylines seamlessly while striking the perfect balance between
the old and the new.

But
if there’s one drawback to “The Force Awakens,” it’s that it tries to
recapture the glory of what made “Star Wars” so great without really
advancing the story to a whole new level. 
History repeats itself, and the only things that have changed are the
names.  The Empire is now the First
Order.  The Rebellion is now the
Resistance.  The Death Star is now
Starkiller Base.  It’s still a fantastic
movie, so newcomers and casual fans won’t mind. 
But for diehard fans who have seen the Original Trilogy hundreds of
times, the story and plot points are all too familiar – so familiar, in fact,
that it almost feels like a reboot or doppelganger of sorts of the very first “Star
Wars” film, “A New Hope,” rather than a real continuation of the
series.

“The
Force Awakens” plays it safe (maybe a little too safe), but it still fits
the bill as an amazing “Star Wars” movie, and a great movie, period.  It’s not as trailblazing as the original film,
nor is it as bold or as audacious as “The Empire Strikes Back.”  But it is still very good, and it’s at least as
good as “Return of the Jedi” (it might even be better, but I’ll need some
perspective and a few more viewings to make that judgment call).  From the opening crawl to the ending credits,
it’s the “Star Wars” movie we waited decades for, and it sets the
stage for even bigger, better and bolder adventures to come.

And
for this “Star Wars” fan, that represents a new hope, indeed.

— Scott Mantz

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