Well here it is after so many years, the first sneak peek of The Force Awakens, it is a bit rushed but we hope you like the first of many teasers from the long-awaited return of one of the most beloved science fiction adventure franchises there is - Star Wars from Lucasfilm and Disney Pictures - the E ticket ride for the entire family.
We made an informal survey of editors who collaborated with us on and off and the short of it is that The Force Awakens hovers between a travesty and absolute genius. And then there is a caravan of accolades from professional movie reviewers who needless to say, at the end of the day, have to contend with a paycheck from their specialty.
All of my peers in the film review industry have lined up and booed the prequels, admittedly not as original as the first trilogy, however nowhere near as bad as they have been made out to be. It's always a problem when the studio is making Rocky V let alone Rocky VII. Imagine where we'd be with Rocky XXVII?
Have we all forgotten that prior to Awakens, Revenge of The Sith broke all opening records and became the second highest grossing movie of the entire Star Wars series with close to $1 Billion in ticket sales?
Abrams may have accomplished the impossible, bringing with him tremendous energy, enthusiasm and a focus on creating a new Star Wars. Disney may also have provided creative guidelines and numerous restrictions on walking a tightrope. With massive amounts of capital already approved and committed to launch an entirely new series of Star Wars movies and products, and possibly many hands stirring the pot, it is amazing that the Force Awakens is the movie we have at present on the big screen.
Where Abrams succeeds is only where he uses new materials, where the storyline explores new developments and where he uses new faces and actors. The trouble with Awakens is it does not attempt to make a clean break, it endeavors to be a bridge between the old series and the new. It's not Abrams fault or any director who will step into those shoes. The problem lies in attempting to raise the Titanic and refurbish it. Well guess what when it's done it wont just look and move like The Titanic, it will be another one. Surprise!!!!!!
The first half of the movie has its strongest pieces in terms of entertainment and discovery. We get to meet the new characters and guess as to where their situation will lead them (and us). Daisy Ridley is a terrific choice for a leading heroine (Rey) and her story, at first, bears a striking resemblance to Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker but from the very start there is something definitely different, and the story never tips its hand until the very conclusion of the film. Daisy embodies the younger can-do new generation of youth that are eagerly in evidence at the local bookstore and video game isle. She is no-nonsense, pragmatic, doesn't bat an eyelash when mythical heroes on a galactic-scale are brought up in conversations where the myths might have been historically accurate. Rey can mix it up with some of the toughest hombres, former stormtroopers (John Boyega as Finn) who deep inside are tender and conflicted as Han Solo was once about his own future avocation as a smuggler and outlaw.
Talk about a comeback? Here we have the comeback of the Millennium, ummm the Millennium Falcon and its dearly beloved Captain and co-pilot. For the fans of the older series, Abrams and Kasdan create one of the most memorable places for the saga exploiting the value of Lucas omitting his favorite cast from the second set of Star Wars and making the reunion more than realistic. Aging Harrison Ford is just fabulous, and seems as if he had defied gravity and time, making the fans scream and laugh as one of their favorite heroes is about to make one more hop across the galaxy and take the audience on another adventure with his Star Destroyer-evading Falcon.
By bringing most of the older cast back, Abrams packs this episode with potential storylines, some of which are stark naked and begging development. There are way too many pieces and in retrospect it makes this movie much livelier, denser, richer and faster, you might say zippier than Phantom and Attack of The Clones.
The Force Awakens' reunion with Carrie Fisher is one of the more touching highlights of this movie although at this point Abrams may have restrained his actors as the sparks that used to fly between these two are nowhere to be seen. Fisher though provides a poised and mature contrast to the effusive and action-oriented Ridley. These female actors draw up characters that seem to be made of the same cloth but only separated and distinguished by experience and years of agony fighting the Empire alongside the Rebel scum.
As the movie nudges into its second half Abrams showcases storyline and plot points that are creakier, weaker and decidedly less original. We get to see more and more of the First Order and the origins of Kylo Ren. We also move into the more dangerous phase of the adventure where our new heroes' character and strength is tested and the big cliff hanger dangling and beckoning to audiences to wait one or two more years before the adventure can move another set of milestones.
In order to offset some of the shortcomings of this new episode in Star Wars, Abrams and Lucasfilm do a complete first in the series and shoot portions of the movie over completely virgin landscapes. It's the first time in the history of this saga that the Rebel forces and military assets engage the remnants of the Empire above an Earth-like planet and what seems to be the remote highlands of Scotland rather than in outer space or around some far away desolate star system. Lucas and Kirschener did the same thing in Empire and drew gasps from audiences in The Empire Strikes Back. He does it again with Return of The Jedi by filming in Northern Califrnia's redwoods what became an enthralling and fresh environment for action and adventure on the Moon of Endor.
I got to hand it to Abrams and Industrial Light & Magic, the investment in a new visual panorama as a backdrop for a lively all-out action battle scene and an ominous face-off in a snow-covered forest at night between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Rebel elements kills some of the edge of what may have been a more bland and boring second half of The Force Awakens and make the entire movie less of two distinct pieces and more cohesive in terms of action and entertainment.