Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force AwakensOver the years as latter films in the Star Wars pantheon have produced diminishing returns, there’s been a bit of a grading curve – “pretty good acting … for someone in a Star Wars film,” “fairly cool action scene … in an otherwise lackluster prequel” and the like. So it’s good news indeed that J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (A-) earns its accolades outright in terms of solid acting, layered characters, genuine high stakes, some earned comic relief and relentless action. The film achieves most of its delirious highs in the first hour as it splendidly introduces four fantastic new characters (Daisy Ridley as fierce scavenger warrior heroine Rey, John Boyega as naive reformed Stormtrooper Finn, Oscar Isaac as cocksure pilot Poe and the precious spherical astromech droid BB-8). There’s considerable descent into incomprehension (alas Abrams gets rather Lost) during the final acts with strange pop psychology that only works in spurts and some tedious retreads of some action moments already depicted in six previous films. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren makes for a so-so villain, albeit with an awesome lightsaber, and his CGI mentor is a bit of a misfire. Harrison Ford is a highlight reprising his role as everyone’s favorite rakish scoundrel Han Solo, this time showing more of his soft side along with his trademark quips. The art direction and physical production are gloriously rendered and are such a welcome return to form: sequences in the desert are lush and the first glimpse of evil TIE Fighters sleek indeed. The film works best when it functions as an archaeological dig into the myths and iconography of the original trilogy; in fact, much of the most spectacular parts of the quest – rescuing antiquities, piecing together lost maps, being chased in the desert and around sinister corners and plumbing the well of characters’ souls – resemble an Indiana Jones installment. The fresh storyline of new characters is actually the film’s novelty since Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill are shamelessly underused. But it’s hard to begrudge a big studio enterprise that is this packed with thrills and adventure, good characters and surprises. It largely hits the mark and sets the stage for some great new revelations.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Sound and Image of Space, Sabers and Symphony

Since its highly anticipated release last year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has taken audiences around the world by storm and has raked in more than $2 billion at the global box office. This monumental success is thanks in large part to an incredible behind-the-scenes effort from some of the most talented audio and visual professionals in the film industry. Star Wars has had a strong relationship with Dolby ever since the first film in the franchise; and the advancements with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision have helped turn the newest chapter into a masterpiece that was nominated for five Oscars: Film Editing, Visual Effects, Original Score, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Please find below a series of videos featuring Oscar-nominated re-recording sound mixer, Andy Nelson, co-producer Ben Rosenblatt and others from the crew discussing how Dolby and Star Wars filmmakers brought the galaxy far, far away into theaters worldwide for an immersive experience.

Sights and Sounds of Space: Video focuses on the Star Wars universe and the inky black of space in contrast with the stars, planets, ships and the importance of sound with movement of ships around the audience

Sound of Symphony: Highlights the evolution of music and the impact of the score for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Saber Sparks and Sonics: Video focuses on the sight and sound of the lightsaber with emphasis on Kylo Ren’s unique saber, the application of color and sonic sound

The Sound of Fandom
Millions of fans have posted videos of themselves talking about and expressing their love for The Force Awakens on social media; and now, the team at Dolby has created a playlist of more than 100 of the best videos of fans celebrating their favorite sound moments in Star Wars history. The playlist includes hundreds of fan videos:

 

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I've reviewed films for more than 20 years. Current movie reviews of new theatrical releases and direct-to-video or streaming films are added weekly to the Silver Screen Capture movie news site. Many capsule critiques originally appeared in expanded form in my syndicated Lights Camera Reaction column.

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Posted in 2015, Rent It Tonight
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