Off the Shelf…’Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

The Force Awakens-BB-8J.J. Abrams, after years in TV, proved his mettle revitalizing the Star Trek franchise on the big screen. He later left the galaxy where people boldly go, and ventured into another – this one far, far away. The first non-Lucas involved Star Wars episodic story expands on everything which came before. However, Episode VII, smartly, does not rely on nostalgia. The Bad Robot team knows this universe well, and they pick up on the previous saga’s material in ways both reverent and forward-thinking. Here, with a seemingly limitless canvas, Abrams and company offer, more or less, a new origin story and a true passing of the torch, err lightsaber to the likes of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Issac.

The Star Wars films have always been about family, specifically the ties between generations. When it comes to certain characters (who will remain nameless to prevent spoiling anything), you have to give a lot of credit to Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt, and Abrams for crafting a yarn that fits right into the soap opera aspect of Star Wars canon. What’s better, The Force Awakens feels like a true extension of the films and players we grew up loving, not something tacked on too long after the fact.

More to that point, this post-Jedi world feels real, evolved and lived-in. While it was evident in 2009’s Star Trek, practical effects and environments bring so much to these fascinating universes (it’s possible that Mad Max: Fury Road might have influenced the team a little more than originally planned as well). After all, when people run from something, and there are explosions to react to, that energy offers real tangibility, and helps us get lost in the story along with the protagonists. Needless to say, it is action-packed. It’s breath of fresh air in the saga, and while more than a fair share of the story was “borrowed” from A New Hope, the team remains free to write what they want without being painted into a corner.

Successful stories need to have a kind of transparency between chapters (on a grand scale mind you), but not give anything away. Because this film is planned as part of three overarching installments, this has less finality than Lucas’ 1977 classic, and as such, The Force Awakens already has a Lord of the Rings feel to it – giving us hints of what’s to come – and making us crave more story (and answers!) as the credits roll. Hopefully, we will see Jackson-esqe results with what Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow do from here on in. Whether viewing this on the big screen or a small one, the force is strong with Abrams, and we have a good feeling about this.

John Williams (with help from co-conductor/orchestrator William Ross) revisits the themes of old, but while there’s criticism and longing for the original Star Wars cues (to fair extent, those are touched upon), remember, this is a new saga. Take it or leave it, Williams knows what he’s doing, and as too much nostalgia would ring false for these succeeding chapters, it’s best to recognize this for what it is – an extension of the series and advancement on the narrative that has been ingrained in our culture for almost 40 years. It’s great to see the likes of Han and Leia, but, smartly, the series focuses on those who will now carry the saga. So, Rey, Finn, and Poe, even BB-8 are the central characters with the returning cast serving as shepherds to those inheriting the legacy.

G-S-T RULING:

The best part about this thrilling installment is that now it can be enjoyed at home. The supplements in this release are by no means throw away, and they’re worth revisiting as much as the film itself. For example, the hour long, four-part making-of feature is worth buying on its own. Also, the pair of featurettes which highlight the amazing VFX, and the breakdown of the design of BB-8 are a lot of fun. Of course, no batch of Star Wars supplements would be complete if they didn’t showcase the saga’s auditory architect. John Williams gets an all too brief 7 minutes, but it’s great to revisit the themes that made the series a hit, as well as the new ones. Hit the jump to light speed, and get your copy of Star Wars: The Force Awakens today!!

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