“People make realistic films today…. special effects people are a dying breed,” George Lucas said before the release of the original Star Wars. Making Star Wars during the cynical seventies, when movies like Network and Taxi Driver were being produced, that prognosis seemed right—but couldn’t be more wrong. Today the midrange “realistic” movie for adults is dead, replaced by an endless stream of special effects events. The upshot: 2015 has been a stellar year in box office receipts and a woeful one in terms of quality American movies. The Force Awakens resumes the franchise a few decades after it left off, in Return of the Jedi. The good guys, the Resistance, are in conflict with the First Order, a fascistic entity that evolved from the entrails of Darth Vader’s failed Empire. No spoilers here. The action is fast. The music is loud. The sentiment is warm. J.J. Abrams stays true to the franchise. A cast that includes old faces—Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford—and new faces—Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver—keeps the story, peopled by a diverse feminist-friendly cast, fresh yet familiar.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White