Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Space opera done right (spoiler-free review)

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Star Wars: The Force AwakensSpoiler-free notes: I have stayed away from almost all Star Wars: The Force Awakens pre-release trailers, teasers, TV spots and radio bits. I’ve turned my eyes away from every tempting Star Wars tidbit I’ve encountered on the Internet in hope of being as spoiler-free experience as possible when viewing the new episode. That said, I wouldn’t dare ruin it for you. So how does one review the most secretive and highly anticipated film ever created without giving away its many magnificent mysteries? We’re about to find out, but with the promise that Nerdvana will be back soon with additional, more extensive analysis of the latest Star Wars film. In the meantime…

Wow! The Force Awakens has incredibly exceeded all of my very high expectations. Director J.J. Abrams shot for the stars and managed to deliver a film that should appease Star Wars aficionados of every generation, while providing new fans with fun new characters and legends laced with the type of unbridled escapism that thrilled the hearts and minds of moviegoers 38 years ago.

I was uncontrollably giddy throughout a good portion of this film (heck, I’m still feeling it now), starting with its famous opening notes (minus the 20th Century Fox fanfare, as we knew would not happen this time around.)

The lead-in text crawl sets up premise that was surprisingly simple, especially considering how much time has passed since Return of the Jedi (30-plus years since Episode VI.) If you are expecting three decades of unseen adventures to be addressed in those two or three paragraphs, then you might be a little disappointed, but I doubt it.

Star Wars: The Force AwakensWithout surprising you with minutia you don’t want to know until you see it for yourself, here are some harmless thoughts and anecdotes about the film:

The usually stoic Oscar Isaac does an incredible job playing the greatest fighter pilot in the galaxy, Poe Dameron. I was expecting a solemn performance from Isaac here and instead got the playful confidence you might expect from a real fighter pilot.

Thirty years have given that far, far away galaxy exciting “ball” technology and more enhanced AI. Like its predecessors, R2-D2 and C-3PO, the new rolling droid, BB-8, is a serious scene stealer that you’ll view more like a real person than rolling robot.

For this old-school fan, scenes with the original Star Wars cast put my emotional state into lightspeed, sending me instantly back to my childhood while at the same time making me grateful to have lived long enough to see this brilliant reunion take place. Were tears shed? There’s no crying in Star Wars! Right? RIGHT?

Star Wars: The Force AwakensAs I said, I knew little about the movie going in, so I was unaware that there is some incredible new acting talent involved. Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn are particularly awesome in their respective roles. Ridley delivers an award-worthy performance and it’s certain these star-making parts will change these young actors’ lives forever – maybe yours as well.

Abrams and his special-effects team amp up the amazement factor by combining new technology with old-fashion models and make-up. The amount of detail in the effects is mind-boggling, from the lightsaber reflection in the hero’s eyes to the insane dogfights to the crazy creatures that inhabit every corner of the screen.

The script for The Force Awakens was written by J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (of The Empire Strikes Back fame) and it has all of the cliffhanging space opera tropes that we have come to expect and love in our Star Wars films. It’s easy to tell Abrams is a fan that knows what makes this genre tick – maybe even better than George Lucas himself.

My predictions are that you will see this movie, you will love it, you will go see it again and you will not be able to wait until Episode VIII in 2017. That’s not a Jedi mind trick, either. I also foresee volumes of hopefully good-natured debate that will set the Internet afire in the coming days. Do yourself a favor and get to your theater to see this movie before you read or see too much about it – and may the Force be with you, always. Grade: 9/10

Photos © 2015 Lucasfilm

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