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THE USED FUTURE RETURNS IN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS

The Young and the Old
Well there are two roads that a low-rent blogging critic-in-quotes can take without the luck of an early screening when getting prepared to view and review what is one of the most anticipated movies ever made: either go into the thing fresh without knowing anything, or read the few Rotten green leaves of the otherwise endless red Tomatoes, and then venture into the IMDB message board galaxy, studying every negative post written about the film, including spoilers...

Back to basics YEAR: 2015
Cult Film Freak took the second road as a springboard to either agree or disagree with what many people already know and heard without having to repeat or spoil it, too much. And some of the negativity is true... THE FORCE AWAKENS is extremely similar to the original STAR WARS: from a cute robot with important plans to a desert-dwelling dreamer who wants to stay put for her "family" while having skills she's not aware of. And yet, taking the central Luke Skywalker mantle is a very talented actress, Daisy Ridley as Rey, who, after a bombastic attack scene following a refreshingly simple opening scrawl, eventually joins up with an ultimate idealist named Finn, not keen on remaining a death-mongering Stormtrooper during his first bloody mission. In-between this somewhat rushed duo is a heroic yet ultimately wasted character in Oscar Isaac as Poe, a cross between Wedge (the X-Wing pilot who miraculously survived all three original films), Robert Downey Jr.'s sarcastic Tony Stark and the person we'll get to next: For to really find out if THE FORCE AWAKENS works takes a particular perspective from a character who not only stole the original trilogy, especially STAR WARS and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, but had an entire generation hoping and praying he would survive being frozen in carbonite... Take it from someone who was there, the time span between 1980 and 1983 seemed longer than 1983 to the first anticipated STAR WARS return in 1999, when, from that date until 2005, the franchise was horrendously childlike and politically-convoluted at the same time – without an actual developed plot and no characters to believe in or root for...

Stormtroopers
And here, skipping to 2015 with a whole new story thirty-years following the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI, while Han Solo and Chewbacca appear at the beginning of the second act, caught in a good old fashion crooked smuggling trap while being reunited with their famously agile clunker of a space ship, the Millennium Falcon... The proof of how believable the youngsters are to carry the franchise, or if their own journey is worth investing our anticipated nostalgic time on, relies within Solo's reluctant-turned-helpful, genuinely positive reaction to their urgent plight, and is all that's needed to sell this particularly basic adventure...

A frosty Ford
So if the kids are worthy enough for Han, they can win over the audience... at least those not bothered by the flaws, including a young powerful villain, desperately poised with a black mask but not much of a backstory (or an explanation of his immense holographic leader), and heroes too comfortable and witty much too quickly, like watching an already-established AVENGERS sequel. Which doesn't really matter since director J.J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasden... the latter who scripted George Lucas's stories for both RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK... keeps moss off a stone that rolls along from one action-packed scene to the next, remaining true to the antique, pulpy aesthetic of the original while sticking close enough on each character's individual plight so not to get lost in a wide-shot computerized milieu, which is what George Lucas did in the horrendous prequels, and what Abrams, maybe not so creatively or originally, brought back to the STAR WARS universe: fun, reckless abandon that isn't quite the vehicle it used to be, but is character-driven nonetheless.

Wedged-in Poe
RATING: ****
SPOILERS EXIST HERE SO DON'T READ THIS IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING IMPORTANT: Carrie Fisher is a General, leading the small Resistance, and it's nice having her around, but there's not much chemistry with Harrison Ford. It's like they're meeting at a Hollywood party, both on Valium • R2D2 wakes up for a minute, C3PO has a few lines, and Mark Hamill appears very quickly... Silently cluing us that he will be extremely important in the next episode, which won't feature Han Solo since he buys the farm, killed by his son, who is the young villain herein... Han's (surprisingly underwhelming and completely predictable) death is something he begged Lucas before RETURN OF THE JEDI was written... he finally got his wish! • In the second act of the movie, Han and Chewie's smuggling pickle seems similar to the writings of Brian Daley, who authored the original Han Solo solo adventures. Recommended reading, along with Alan Dean Foster's SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE, all on Kindle • Sorry for even mentioning the prequels, but the lack of Oscar Isaac's character is reminiscent of how Ewan McGregor's Obi Wan was more than passed-over in THE PHANTOM MENACE, only to progress into a major role thereafter. Let's hope the same goes for Isaac's X-Wing ace, who has a lot of potential • There is a Death Star but with a different name, taking place within an immense planet with Hoth-like snow on top with steely interior, homage to EMPIRE STRIKES BACK while Leia's fortress, replete with an eclectic alien Cantina, is forest-laden, like Endor in RETURN OF THE JEDI but with a LORD OF THE RINGS vibe • Thankfully, unlike the prequel video game fast-paced saber duels, in this movie we return to the more swashbuckling, realistic type of match: in fact, the movie has a pirate vibe throughout: sort of a space pirate adventure. • Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux was somewhat of a weaker version of the original film's Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing, whose human Empire foes were very Nazi-based... but they go a step too far when, after Hux gives his speech, the Troopers all do an actual Hitler salute: c'mon JJ, don't be like Lucas, who put a 1950's diner in a galaxy far, far away. But it only lasts a second. • And in closing, there's a Cult Film Freak article written long ago, when Disney first grabbed Lucas's billions, and the essay was on the hope, unlike the boring prequels, that the story keeps on the run, like the characters in the original trilogy and like George's brilliantly fast-paced AMERICAN GRAFFITI, so you can read that if you click here because basically, Abrams does keep the people, and the story, literally moving along, which does happen here since, upon a second viewing, where the film was even more entertaining, the Star-Killer base winds up destroying a handful of those annoying prequel CGI planets, leaving the rebels to having very little, once again! For in a "used future," less is more.
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