DVD Review by Kam Williams
Newcomers Join Ford, Fisher and Hamill in Latest Outer Space Epic
The Force Awakens is a splendid sequel to Return of the Jedi, the 1983 finale of the original Star Wars trilogy. This offering follows the uneven prequel trilogy released over the intervening years, the low point being the introduction of a jive Jamaican character named Jar Jar Binks.
Episode VII, which also marks the launch of another trilogy, just might be the best Star Wars installment yet. This is no surprise when you consider that it was directed by Spielberg protege J.J. Abrams (Super 8), who'd proved himself worthy of being entrusted with the storied sci-fi series by virtue of his prior success with the tent pole franchises Star Trek and Mission Impossible.
The Force Awakens represents an ingenious mix of the old and the new, as it features familiar faces like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, as well as fresh ones in John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. The same can be said of the adventure's robotic cast members, with anthropomorphic android BB-8 joining in the fun with much beloved R2-D2 and C-3PO.
An engaging plot interweaves all of the above in a way which never feels forced. Credit in this regard goes to Abrams for collaborating with three-time Academy Award-nominee Lawrence Kasdan (for The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist and Grand Canyon) and Oscar-winner Michael Arndt (for Little Miss Sunshine) in crafting an engaging script frankly imbued with a little more depth than expected. Betwixt the hi-tech battles between good and evil, the tale exploits breaks in the action to serve up a fair amount of nostalgia and sentimentality.
It all unfolds a few decades after the events in Return of the Jedi, opening with the trademark conceit "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." followed by a crawl explaining what's transpired since we've last met. At the point of departure, we learn that the New Republic is joining forces with the Resistance to fight the Stormtroopers of the First Order, an intergalactic dictatorship led by the diabolical Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Soon thereafter, intrepid protagonists emerge in rebel fighter pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), renegade Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), orphaned scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and reliable veteran Admiral Han Solo (Ford). The good guys have a seemingly inexhaustible army of adversaries to vanquish en route to making the universe safe again for freedom and democracy.
The hostilities inexorably build to a spectacular, lightsaber battle best appreciated in 3-D and on an IMAX screen. Nevertheless, for my money, the movie's most inspired moments are the ones designed to tug at the heartstrings, like the touching reunion of Solo and Princess Leia (Fisher).
A thrilling outer space epic breathing new life into a once flagging franchise!
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence
Running time: 136 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Extras: Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey; The Story Awakens: The Table Read; Building BB-8; Crafting Creatures; Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight; John Williams: The Seventh Symphony; ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force; Force for Change; and deleted scenes.
To see a trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt08BH9COsI
To order a copy of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B018FK66TU/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20