A Brief History of Star Wars by Jack Safir
On May 25, 1977, a film titled “Star Wars” was released at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Early reviews indicated that the film would be a financial flop, due to its ridiculous plot and outlandish characters. Those reviews could not have been more wrong, as “Star Wars” would go on to be both a critical and financial success, starting what many believe to be the greatest film franchise of all time. Following the success of “Star Wars,” two more films were released: “Star Wars Episode II: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Star Wars Episode III: Return of the Jedi” (1983). The two films were just as successful as the first, which later became retitled as “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.” Creator George Lucas decided to stop making “Star Wars” films after the first three.
13 years after Return of the Jedi, Lucas released a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films. Rather than continuing the storyline set in the first three films, the new trilogy was a prequel, debuting in 1999 with its first film, “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (the original trilogy became episodes IV,V and VI). “The Phantom Menace” received extremely negative reviews, despite being a box-office success. Critics criticized the film and its sequels (“Episode II: Attack of the Clones” and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”) for bad acting from Hayden Christensen, uninteresting plots and annoying characters like Jar Jar Binks. Lucas received much hate for the prequels, and ultimately decided to finally stop making more “Star Wars” films.
Seven years later, on Oct. 30, 2012, Disney purchased Lucasfilms for around $4 Billion and announced that they would make an entirely new “Stars Wars” trilogy. The first film of this trilogy was called “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” and was released on Dec. 17, 2015. The film was just as well received as the films in the original trilogy, and as of press time, is the highest grossing film of all time domestically.
“The Force Awakens” Review:
Nostalgia instantly returned as soon as the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” appeared on screen followed by the infamous theme song and crawl text. We felt like little kids again, and could tell that everyone else in the theatre felt the same way. The film is a nonstop, action-packed, blockbuster adventure. Fans of the franchise will be delighted to see members of the original cast return, like Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Although the original cast is back, the main stars of the film are entirely new to the “Star Wars” universe. The new additions to the cast include Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron.
“The Force Awakens” takes place around 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” The Empire, lead by Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader, has been destroyed. However, from the ashes of the Empire, a new power has risen. The new threat is called the First Order, led by the sinister Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Finn, a former Storm Trooper, joins the forces with Rey, a scavenger. The two meet up with Han Solo, Chewbacca and a new droid named BB-8. Together, the group tries to help the Resistance and take down the First Order.
One of the reasons that the prequels were negatively received, was because of the use of CGI. In moderation, CGI can help a film, but it was used too heavily in the prequels. Recognizing this issue, the film’s director, JJ Abrams, decided to use practical effects for “The Force Awakens” resulting in a more natural and realistic look for the film. There is one moment in the movie with many different colorful space characters, while it was strange seeing so much CGI, it didn’t ruin the scene. The smart dialogue and compelling characters saved the moment.
The performances in the movie are amazing. After Ford’s negatively received performance in “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” many viewers were worried about seeing him portray Han Solo on the big screen for the first time in over 30 years. Thankfully, Ford gives an incredible performance. However, Han Solo isn’t the star performance in the film. Newcomer, Ridley steals the show. Her portrayal of Rey is one of the best in “Star Wars” history. She is a relatable character, whom the audience wants to see succeed.
After the disaster of the prequels, there was a lot of pressure on the Abrams to make “The Force Awakens” great. Abrams deserves a round of applause for not only making a film that is as good as the original “Star Wars” films, but for making a film that improves on them. “The Force Awakens” blends themes from the original movie with new additions to the universe, and the results are spectacular.