Friday, December 18, 2015


Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is out to complete what Darth Vader started in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

So last night, I drove down to the Cinemark theater in Orange County to watch J.J. Abrams' long-awaited installment in the Star Wars franchise. So what did I think of The Force Awakens (TFA), you ask? It was awesome! The movie definitely had the energetic feel of the original trilogy, plus the clever dialogue that Lawrence Kasdan (who, along with Abrams and Michael Arndt, wrote the screenplay for TFA) originally injected into The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and non-Star Wars flick Raiders of the Lost Ark, respectively.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and BB-8 keep on the lookout for trouble in a Jakku village in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

In regards to the new characters of Disney's Star Wars trilogy [it was surreal to see Han Solo, Luke Skywalker (briefly, but in the most memorable moment of the film), Leia Organa, Chewbacca and even Admiral Ackbar back on the big screen], they were commendable! Daisy Ridley definitely took heed of Abrams' comments when he supposedly called her acting 'wooden' on the first day of shoot for Episode VII. Daisy Ridley did a wonderful job as Rey...and her spunkiness as a Jakku scavenger plus ability to be a bad-ass with a blaster (and another, more elegant weapon in the climax) showed that she is a heroine who's not to be messed with in this new trilogy.

Igniting the lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin Skywalker, Finn (John Boyega) prepares to take on Kylo Ren (off-screen) in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

John Boyega did a great job as Stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn...and the witty dialogue that he shares with Rey and Han Solo showed that he is up to the task of taking the reins from Solo (for a reason that I won't divulge here) in terms of being the wisecracking hero that fans will be able to identify with as the Light and Dark Sides of the Force clash once more.

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leads his X-Wing squadron into battle above Takodana in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Oscar Isaac was terrific as hotshot X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron, and set the genial tone of the film by spouting this humorous line to Kylo Ren in the opening scene: "So who talks first? You talk first? I talk first?" The million dollar question is: Who would win in a dogfight, Wedge Antilles from the original trilogy or Dameron's Black Leader? My money is on Black Leader.

X-Wings strafe a target at Starkiller Base in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

And of course, not to be overlooked is Adam Driver's Kylo Ren! Contrary to Driver's comment about this Master of the Knights of Ren, Kylo is truly evil. Like his predecessor Darth Vader, Kylo wants to get rid of any trace of the Light from his soul...ordering a squad of Stormtroopers to wipe out an entire village on Jakku, using the Force to choke a fellow First Order officer after destroying an entire control room with his lightsaber in a fit of rage, using the Force to torture and interrogate captives such as Poe Dameron (you saw this in the final theatrical trailer) aboard a Star Destroyer and even at Starkiller Base, and (SPOILER ALERT) committing patricide. I wonder how much more powerful he will become once he begins training with Supreme Leader Snoke (supremely voiced by Andy Serkis) in the next movie.

Kylo Ren deflects a blaster shot from Rey (off-screen) in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

In regards to nitpicking about The Force Awakens, John Williams' music score left a lot to be desired in this movie. I do feel that TFA is the second best Star Wars flick in the saga, behind The Empire Strikes Back. But just as Empire had loads of memorable music in it, TFA had few (the most noteworthy cue being—ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT—the haunting music that played as Rey ascended those steps on that island to confront a certain Jedi Master at the end of the movie). If the score for Star Wars: Episode VIII will be anything like in Episode VII, then I'm gonna sound like a heretic by saying that I won't have any issue about Williams being replaced by another composer for Rian Johnson's 2017 installment. Assuming, of course, the composer retains classic motifs such as the Force theme that defined Williams' work in the Star Wars saga for the past four decades.

Aboard a Star Destroyer bridge, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren confer as Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) looks on in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

Online reports state that Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma will have a larger role in Episode VIII. I hope that this will be the case! Assuming, of course (again), it is explained as to how she was able to escape that trash compactor on Starkiller Base. Watch the movie to know what I'm talking about.

General Hux and his legion of First Order soldiers watch as Starkiller Base fires its superweapon towards the Hosnian system in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

And lastly— In terms of Rey suddenly summoning the skills to aptly take on Kylo Ren in the climactic lightsaber duel...the Force awakened! [Personally speaking, it also explains how R2-D2 awoke from his sleep after Rey proved her mettle against Kylo Ren... Abrams said that this was due to BB-8 (adorable droid) conversing to R2 as he lied dormant at the Resistance Base earlier in the third act, but it made more sense for Luke to be behind this.] It's just as Kylo said (to paraphrase): The longer that Rey was on the loose in Starkiller base, the more dangerous she was becoming as she discovered her powers.

The Millennium Falcon flies through a thicket of trees after coming out of hyperspace above Starkiller Base in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

This Sunday, I'm planning to watch The Force Awakens again in IMAX 3-D. How many times will I watch this film during what should be a long theatrical run, you ask? You would need to be able to read my mind like Kylo Ren could... May the Force be with you!

4.5 out of 5 stars. ****1/2

At the Resistance base, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and General Leia (Carrie Fisher) share a moment in STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS.

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