Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Ah, it's great to see the story line advance after all these years. And it's good to see many of our favorite characters, again, as well. But best of all, it's good to introduce some new characters, whose youthful vitality is actually what made the originals so enchanting in the first place.
We learn from the opening lines that Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, is missing. Nobody seems to know where he is. There's still a Resistance, but The Empire has gotten even stronger, and has developed a powerful secret weapon that threatens the very safety of the galaxy.
We begin with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young, athletic scavenger on an isolated planet, who's strong and resourceful, but caught in hopeless poverty, as she longs for the the return of her family, who, we suspect, aren't going to come back. What Rey doesn't know is that The Force is with her. But as the movie unfolds, and she discovers her latent talents, she's also introduced to a cosmic battle that she's not sure she wants to join.
It seems the Dark Side of The Force, through the Supreme Leader (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is actively seeking the planetary map that will lead them to Luke Skywalker, so they can eliminate him. The information gets hidden in a droid, which find its way to Rey, with the help of a surprisingly ally, Finn (John Boyega). They, in turn, are helped by our old friends Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by Leia (Carrie Fisher),who's now a general, plans an attack on the deadly secrete weapon. But along the way there are many homages to previous dynamics in this celebrated series, as well as a few surprises (which will be “out of the bag” by Opening Day).
Familiar interplay includes light saber fights (of course), a black mask for the bad guy, ice world, desert planets, and a cantina-like scene with scary aliens in a dark bar. The Millenium Falcon, Han Solo's old spaceship, rides again. The people who discover some of The Force in them must then undergo a battle of the conscience to decide how these special talents will be utilized: for good or evil. And there's usually some mentor eager to help them with either choice.
Of course spaceship travel always captures the imagination. But so do old-fashioned “dogfights,” where individual ships battle each other in the sky. Sure, there are blasters and explosives and laser beams, but nothing focuses a clash of individual characters like a good old-fashioned swordfight with the light sabers. A new scenario? Females fight for the bad guys, too.
Naturally, the musical score is by John Williams, who also both pays homage to previous compositions, as well as introduce some new ones. Sometimes, the homage seems a little strained, as C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2D2 (Kenny Baker) re-appear without really advancing the story. And this newest version is so straight-laced that it seems to lack some of the charm and humor of previous versions, not to mention containing only the barest whiff of romance. But in the end, there's still an open pathway for The Force to develop further, so we are at least set up for the sequel, and those of us who are long-time fans will be eagerly anticipating that one, as well.
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Dr. Ronald P. Salfen is the Supply Pastor, First Presbyterian Church, Mabank, Texas