Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Grade: A-

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The Force Awakens may be the most derivative film ever made – but it’s still pretty great. (SPOILER FREE)

It would be hard to argue with the statement that the weight on JJ Abrams’ shoulders was more significant than any filmmaker in the history of film.  Not only is The Force Awakens a new Star Wars movie, but it’s a continuation of the most beloved trilogy in cinema history – so any mistake or alteration -regardless of size- could potentially impact the way the public viewed the original trilogy.

Sans a few minor variations, The Force Awakens has a identical narrative to Episode IV: A New Hope.  Since this review is spoiler-free we will not get into the specifics, but the similarities are glaring and intentional.  But, this does not mean that Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (co-writer) made an easy and safe Star Wars film – risks were taken and decisions were made.

Despite the parallel nature of the film, or perhaps due to it, The Force Awakens successfully captures the vibrant spirit of the original trilogy, while setting future films on a course of potential and hopeful divergence.  The derivative elements help ground the entire experience in familiarity, while the new crop of young actors provide the next gen jolt that the film needed to fuel its subsequent parts.  All four of the main newcomers: Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley. John Boyega and Adam Driver are phenomenal in the film.

The Force Awakens is a jumping off point, it is the spark to set the fire ablaze – and it does so remarkably well.  It feels like Star Wars.  It’s wonderfully paced from the first frame to the last, and finely balanced -with enough easter eggs to satisfy the series’ original fans and enough new stuff to entertain the next crop of x-wing enthusiasts.  The practical effects, the music, the sounds, the occasional light-hearted and comedic moments all have the same unique charm of the original trilogy, and the darker moments delve to deeper levels than any prior Star Wars film.

Bottom Line: While it could’ve benefited from being slightly less derivative, JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and co. stood on the shoulder of giants, lept off and stuck the landing.  

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