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Star Wars: The Force Awakens (SPOILERS!!)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise. It’s the first film of the newest trilogy, and the first truly great Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back (Return of the Jedi was a glorified toy commercial and a bit of a letdown. It’s still better than the prequel trilogy though). J.J. Abrams takes over the director’s chair and breaths fresh life into the series. There are new characters, new planets, new aliens, but with enough nostalgia to bring a smile to the most cynical of Star Wars fans. If you don’t like this film, you don’t like Star Wars and I feel bad for you. You have no sense of fun or adventure and you bring everyone down around you.

I didn’t have the chance to see The Force Awakens on opening night. I finally got to see it yesterday. It was worth the wait. I almost teared up as the introductory text crawl appeared onscreen. It’s been a long time since we visited Luke Skywalker and friends. To find out he was missing was surprising. Instantly you wonder what lies ahead. The first action sequence was overwhelming and you knew that you got your money’s worth right away.

I don’t want to talk too much about the plot. I don’t think the plot is all that important. Star Wars was always more about the characters. If you don’t care about the characters, you won’t care about what happens to them. John Boyega plays Finn, a stormtrooper that quickly finds his conscious and joins the resistance. You can see his reluctance to kill before you ever see his face. Daisy Ridley play Rey, a fierce and tough scavenger who is thrust into an adventure she never planned for but is completely capable of handling. The most important new character is arguably BB-8, the droid that dominated the Christmas toy market. He is a robot that beeps and boops like R2-D2 and seems like a mechanical puppy a lot of the time. If you don’t buy him, you won’t like the film. He’s like Wall-E. He’s a mechanical object that has more emotions than a fourteen-year-old girl.

The new characters aren’t all good guys either. You have to have some bad guys for them to fight against. The Force Awakens has bad guys in spades. There’s Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, a masked villain who inevitably reminds you of Darth Vader, yet is still relatable. It helps that he takes his mask off and you find out his backstory in this film as opposed to waiting a few years for the sequel to discover who he is. He reminds me of Tom Hiddleston as Loki in the Marvel cinematic universe. Andy Serkis portrays Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious master of the dark side who is pulling the strings behind the scenes. We have a lot more to learn about him. Domhnall Gleeson plays General Hux, the Grand Moff Tarkin of the new trilogy. He’s a bad guy, but he’s a bureaucrat as opposed to an evil Jedi.

I haven’t even started talking about the returning characters. Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew returning as Han Solo and Chewbacca was worth the price of admission alone. They had a much bigger part than I thought they would. I was expecting a glorified cameo. It was anything but. They drove the plot forward. Carrie Fisher returned as Leia Organa. She’s a general as opposed to a princess now. Anthony Daniels returns as C-3PO, although he’s almost unrecognizable with his new red arm. You also see a lot of former background characters reappear. I won’t lie, it was awesome seeing Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb again. I didn’t know that I missed them. I did.

The best thing about The Force Awakens is that it feels like a new Star Wars film. You get to catch up with old characters but the focus is on the new characters and nothing feels forced about it (enjoy that pun). There’s a passing of the torch. It’s not about Luke, Leia, and Han anymore. That’s a good thing. You don’t want to live in the past. Well, maybe you do but you shouldn’t.

You need to see this movie and it’s best to see it with other Star Wars nerds. It’s much more enjoyable to share a look and a comment with a friend when you both catch an obscure reference. It’s not a perfect movie, but no movies are. It’s still exciting and it hooks you in and leaves you breathless until the end. There are only a few characters and scenes that seem out of place but it all seems like is building up to something in the sequels. I will testify that we sat in the theater when the film ended and talked about everything we witnessed as the credits rolled. It’s not often that you want to immediately go back and watch what you just saw. That’s a testament to how satisfying The Force Awakens was. I could write a lot more about this movie. I’m going to drink a beer instead.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

Luke Skywalker and his friends are back in the conclusion to the original trilogy. Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas wrote the screenplay and Richard Marquand directs. This was the last good Star Wars movie, even though the second half of the film kind of sucks. I blame the Ewoks. It’s pretty obvious they were just included to sell toys and appeal to kids. They are the Jar Jar Binks of the original trilogy, only without being blatantly racist and overly annoying.

            The film opens with the dramatic rescue of Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, where Luke must use his Jedi skills to beat the bad guys and save his friends. There are quite a few iconic moments and characters in this part. There’s the Rancor, the Sarlacc, Jabba the Hutt, green pig guards, and Princess Leia in a gold bikini. It’s one of the best sequences in sci-fi cinema. Princess Leia in a gold bikini. Just reflect on that for a moment.

            The Rebel Alliance finds out that the Empire is building a new Death Star and that the Emperor himself is going to oversee the final preparations. The Rebels decide that this is their time to strike. They hatch a plan to destroy the shield generator on the forest moon of Endor, which will allow their star fleet to blow up the Death Star. But they don’t know that it’s a trap. It’s just one part of the Emperor’s plan to convert Luke to the Dark Side of the Force.

While Han, Leia, Chewy and the gay robots are busy playing with teddy bears, Lando is leading the aerial assault on the Empire, and Luke is dealing with his Darth Vader daddy issues. Needless to say, all the conflicts get resolved, most of the loose ends are tied up, and the story ends with our heroes celebrating their victory.

            It’s a pretty satisfying ending to the original trilogy. It’s not as good as A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back, but it’s a million times better than the prequel trilogy. George Lucas keeps on tweaking this movie and now Hayden Christensen is in it at the end. I wish I still had a VCR so I could watch the real movie again.

Critically Rated at 12/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes Back is the best chapter in the Star Wars saga and one of the best sequels of all time. George Lucas hands the directing responsibilities to Irvin Kershner, and the resulting performances from the actors are more dynamic and layered. This sequel takes everything good about the original and expands upon it. It’s faster, darker, and more interesting. Plus it has a better, more intense lightsaber duel.

            The main characters all return, and we meet a few new characters: Yoda and Lando. Billy Dee Williams plays the shifty Lando Calrissian, a former friend of Han’s. Lando is cool, but it’s all about Yoda. Muppet guru Frank Oz provides the voice and brings Yoda to life. The real Yoda is a puppet, not a computer animated abomination with a little lightsaber.

The Empire Strikes Back is a little different from most blockbusters. The big action scene happens in the beginning with the invasion of Hoth. The film ends with an emotional climax. Han Solo is trapped in carbonite and sent to Jabba the Hutt and you find out that Darth Vader is Luke’s dad. I really hope you knew that already.

            Star Wars was a revolutionary film that changed cinema in a lot of ways. The Empire Strike Back is step forward for the franchise. It’s more adult and it has deeper themes. It still has one of the best cliffhanger endings ever. You want to watch Return of the Jedi as soon as the credits start to roll.

The only thing that weirds me out about this movie is when Leia made out with Luke. Galactic incest is still incest.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Star Wars

Star Wars is one of the best movies of all time. It might have been officially renamed Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but it will always be Star Wars. George Lucas was a genius once, and this was his directorial highlight. Some people will say Empire Strikes Back is better, and I will tell them that Irvin Kershner directed Episode V, and that maybe they should shut the fuck up and let the real nerds talk about Star Wars.

There are three types of people in the world. People who have seen Star Wars and love it, people who have seen Star Wars and hate it, and people who have never seen Star Wars. The people who either love or hate Star Wars can agree on one thing: you are a freak if you haven’t seen Star Wars. I don’t even know how it’s possible to have not seen Star Wars at this point. It practically is pop culture.

Even if you haven’t seen Star Wars you know that Luke Skywalker has some sort of beef with Darth Vader. You know that Han Solo has a man-dog friend named Chewbacca. And you know that Princess Leia has cinnamon buns for hair. You also know the basic plot: a boy must grow up and face his destiny and embarks on the classic hero’s quest. There’s the everyman, the rogue shifty ally, the damsel in distress, the old wizard/mentor, and the villain with a powerful weapon. There are swords, knights, honor/chivalry, and space ships, robots, and aliens. And don’t forget about the fucking lightsabers, bro.

Star Wars was supposed to be a flop. The idea was so ambitious and the technology was so limited, it didn’t seem like it could possibly be a success. But the story and characters resonated with the audience. John Williams created music as iconic as the visuals on the screen. The world was changed. This was the first true sci-fi blockbuster. Movies are supposed to be an escape. Star Wars took you to a whole new universe and the movie stays with you long after you see it. Some people devote their lives to Star Wars. I can’t blame them because reality bites but Star Wars is awesome.

Critically Rated at 16/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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