Cine Reviews: ‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’ (2015)

Recall one thing you remember from Star Wars. Just anything. Anything you loved. Was it the epicness oozing from its creative universe? The awesome lightsaber duels? Or maybe it was the enthralling and completely lovable characters? Perhaps it was EVERYTHING, literally everything. That’s just how beloved George Lucas’ galactic saga came to be. It wasn’t just seen as a massive space opera but also as a journey we all willingly and eagerly took on. Sadly for the prequel trilogy that Lucas helmed, almost all of that magic was lost. Unfortunately, the three ambitious additions to the golden trilogy tampered the Star Wars name and may have probably left some of us in disbelief and disgust. After ten years of waiting, we are finally blessed with a new Star Wars film; one that continues where it left off. Thankfully it doesn’t have George Lucas’ name attached on it. Instead we get J.J Abrams; a man who has brought us some great films and other terrific blockbusters. The question here though is, did he excel in taking the task of directing a new Star Wars film?

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The answer you’re looking for can be confidently answered just as the film starts right then and there. From the moment the iconic title crawl appears onscreen accompanied by John Williams’ ever-triumphant theme music blasting in the easily recognizable background of stars, we get that joyous feeling that the long years of waiting we had to endure was all very much worth it. J.J. Abrams immediately defies all expectations bathed in pessimism as we earn his complete trust by introducing us to this up-to-date adventure in a glorious fashion and a hint of  Star Wars classicism. Early on in the film you are able to get the feeling that it will be a great film and by this epic journey ends, that feeling becomes a concrete truth someway somehow.  Fans both old and new will truly love all the cinematic splendor Episode VII has up in its sleeves. After keeping the storyline confidentially in a web of secrets, we are finally treated to a new tale consisting of three different heroes and three new sinister villains…or so it seems. But aside from that simplistic plot description, Episode VII’s plot could seem to be a revamped Episode IV mixed with elements of V & VI if to be examined under a microscope. There are various references to the golden oldies to be cherished, and they sure provide a huge chunk of nostalgia. The way I put things together may have sounded a bit negative but, really it’s all the other way around. It just appears that VII is actually a grand homage to the iconic original trilogy as well as it is an introduction to everything new. As fans, we are treated with respect and honor as we are proudly presented with J.J.’s  masterful and committed work that allows us to relish his exuberant accomplishment in bringing yet another Star Wars Episode that could be praised and loved without any hesitance.

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Abrams convinces us that he is inspired by all the greatness Lucas has shown him but also refuses to repeat his evil mistakes. Just over the course of two hours and fifteen minutes, Abrams completely demolishes the prequel trilogy in all his might with his self-assured efforts. He totally ignores George Lucas’ abhorrent prequels that have scarred us for life and made us want to turn in to the Dark Side of the Force because of his irresponsibility. In the name of J.J. Abrams, we have found A New Hope and a Return to glory for the Star Wars saga that doesn’t just Strike Back at Lucas, but also Attacks us with the excellence of its new establishments marked with Abrams’ name. Abrams gets his Revenge on Lucas’ sinister wrongdoings and shows us that he didn’t let fear get in his way as he courageously restores the glorified Star Wars’magnificent name by using the Force in the best and rightest way there has ever been. Through him, the true Force that has slept recently in the Star Wars saga has truly Awakened and is ready to wake up the kid in all of us. Any lack of faith in Abrams would be disturbing, and any form of doubt would be unnecessary since he brings Episode VII where it rightfully belongs; home. There is even one scene that signifies its warm homecoming as shown in one of the trailer’s most memorable moments. That beautiful moment also serves as a metaphor for saying that Episode VII is finally at home. For an instance, it becomes self-aware in regards to its generous and confident moment-after-moment outpour of epic goodness. J.J. Abrams did exactly what he should; deliver a thrilling new Star Wars epic for this generation to treasure. Just like our trusty Master Yoda says “Do or do not, there is no try”. Thankfully J.J. followed this principle.

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Riddled with awesome callbacks, Episode VII will truly and rightfully trigger fanboys to just squeal in glee as they see their favorite characters from the previous Episodes come back and even furiously point out every other reference that they catch; but without disregarding the utter memorability and timelessness  its predecessors had, we must also acknowledge the glaring truth that this is yet another journey worth being a part of. Abrams allows Episode VII to stand on its own without the over-reliance on those that preceded it; he provided us with a story that could almost stand on its own two feet. Among the many directions VII could’ve taken, Abrams chose the modern update with a classic touch to work in that nostalgic blockbuster vibe. The usage of the effective formula and his spicing up of things using his own ingredients warrants full-on satisfaction with the magnificence that we are given to witness. There is an abundance of characters in Episode VII, but we are mostly greeted with Rey, Finn and Poe; three people that get introductions in this opener to a new trilogy. He exerts a whole lot of passion in these characters by not only making them new versions of Luke, Han, etc. but also ones that we could legitimately connect to without confusion and dismay. Yes the resemblance regarding their traits may be striking, but the way they are made to be could be quite different. Juggling three main characters is quite a hard task, and that’s where it kinda goes south as we sense some of the difficulties that it’s subtly having. No the characters aren’t terribly written in any sort of way, but they do sometimes lack the “punch” that we are looking for within them. Much to our liking, they do exhibit strong characterizations that make us look up to them.

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Sturdy characters were something yet again nowhere to be found in George Lucas’ distasteful prequel trilogy and fortunately enough, it was never lost in Episode VII. The characterizations in tow for Rey, Finn, and Poe are all wonderful even if they could get quite unbalanced. Rey shows us a lot of power and hope if not only for her painful past and sheer vulnerability. It is through that small but impactful detail wherein we are able to relate to her frustrated nature that leads into eventual gain of courage to strike inspiration into our heart and soul. Daisy Ridley’s fulfilling embodiment of Rey attempts her character to seek new horizons to be crowned as the series’ current mythical legend for all of us to love. Accompanying Rey would be John Boyega’s Finn who seems to be a quasi-comic relief but is also a well-built protagonist with his characterization. Every time Boyega is onscreen is a relief as we feel pitiful for the bumbling rogue who ends up being a strengthened hero. Despite the two’s likable presence as the film makes its way towards the climax, some of their arcs get kind of lost in the mix causing a bit of imbalances in regards to their character development. The collision between these two, added with Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron was a talented joined force. However, overcrowding is highly evident as seen in Isaac’s measly yet still wondrous appearance. It is through Poe where BB-8, the new robot is introduced. This rolling ball of steel produces delightful bonds with our protagonists and ensures that we enjoy the sweet moments that he shares with them.

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As we dig into one of the film’s noticeable flaws (albeit not much of a burden), we find out that there isn’t much screen-time allotted for the trio of villains this Episode boasts. A single force overpowers the others; I’m talking about Kylo Ren who was surprisingly brilliantly portrayed by Adam Driver. This Episode wants us to look at Kylo as the new Darth Vader, and with help from Driver’s intimidating visage we are easily convinced that he might just be the next Vader. But of course like any other character saved for the sequels, he needed some building up even if the film deemed him as a worthy antagonist. Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux performed well as a secondary antagonist; his loud yelling showed true sinister intent during one superbly noteworthy scene. If there is yet another new character that I thought was going to make it big, that would be Captain Phasma as played by Gwendoline Christie. She would’ve been a strong female antagonist taunting Rey, but instead she ends up just marching and taking orders. In short, she should’ve been in it more.

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Moving on to the iconic old characters, Han Solo’s comeback was more than satisfying. Just by seeing his face, feeling Ford’s presence, and remembering all the unforgettable adventures we shared with him was more than enough. We could have not been more grateful. He and Chewy bring classic thrills and that cool connection that they have to entertain and play with our emotions. Not to forget, Han and Finn have some good banter going on. Surprisingly, Han is actually in it more than we think he is. He actually becomes involved in the film’s second major plot-point together with Leia Organa who not only returns as her love interest.The two get caught up with maternal and paternal issues and Han and Leia’s entanglement in that personal conflict leaves a mark on us with the maintenance of their strong recurring chemistry and the horrifying incident that happens to one of them (you figure out which). Even the return of the series’ trademark robots R2-D2 and C3-PO just warms our hearts.

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Episode VII’s visuals are almost surreal. They look really believable for a blockbuster. We genuinely feel like we are a part of this world during the film’s duration, and it allows us to escape real life for a moment. The addition of 3D lets you get lost in this universe, and adds to the grand feel that it has in tow. The battle scenes have never looked so gritty; one prime example being the dark and seemingly harrowing opening scene. There is a small amount of realism thrown in there for good measure, and it leads to us believing that the extraterrestrial creatures being ambushed have feelings as they evoke emotions. The worlds built in this chapter feel very much realistic; it’s as if you are there and you have a role in the numerous battles that take place. Cinephiles who criticize CGI usage in blockbusters should find no need in doing that because the CGI blends in very well with the practical effects; making everything look imaginable from the dusty old Millennium Falcon to the lightsaber duels. Abrams’ wise decision in utilizing practical effects is something to really be grateful for as it results to Episode VII  being one of the best-looking Star Wars there ever is.

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Episode VII of the Star Wars Saga is basically a mashup of classic things that we loved in the first trilogy moonlighting as J.J. Abrams’ contemporary continuation of where VI left off. Fueled with bursting energy from its new cast, weaved with a thrillingly exciting storyline,  and boasting with confidence in regards to bringing us satisfaction. ‘The Force Awakens’ fully guarantees an unforgettable movie experience with its slick thrills and overall grandiose offerings. Episode VII might just be the grandest and endlessly engrossing blockbuster you’ve been looking for all this time.

4.5/5 stars.

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‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’ opens in Philippine cinemas tomorrow from Walt Disney Studios. See it in IMAX 3D. May the Force be with you! #TheForceAwakensPH

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