December 16, 2015
This must be the most awaited film for the whole year. "Star Wars" has got to be the most beloved of all film franchises. Reception for prequel Episodes 1-3 may not have been very positive, yet the anticipation for this new film still ran really high. Fans were trying to get to watch it as early as possible. Social media is filled with all sorts of excited expectations. These fans were serious, even threatening to "unfriend" those who would post spoilers about the plot. Many have even reviewed all the previous films to get themselves ready.
I was fortunate to have been able to catch a special advance screening at the newly-inaugurated Dolby Atmos Cinema 5 of Gateway Mall in the Araneta Center. Dolby Atmos is a sound system that promises to surround the theater with 360 degrees of prime-quality sound. As they say, at the heart of great cinema is great sound. Because of its expected excellence in sound mixing, I believe that this new Star Wars film should certainly a very good film to try out this premium sonic experience in movie watching.
The moment the familiar first frame with the words "Long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..." came on screen, the audience erupted in excited applause. The narrative text tells us the setting as usual. The last jedi Luke Skywalker is missing. The Rebel Alliance is now known as the Resistance, under the leadership of General Leia Organa. The Empire is now known as the First Order, under the Supreme Leader Snoke and Commander Kylo Ren. Both factions want to be the one to find Skywalker first.
Meanwhile, two young people from widely disparate backgrounds, Rey and Finn, serendipitously got together and embarked on a mission to bring a roly-poly BB-8 droid with vital information on the location of Luke Skywalker to the Resistance. On this fateful quest, the Millennium Falcon will fly again, long-estranged partners will reunite, another father and a son will confront each other, another Death Star will get stormed and another climactic light-saber battle will ensue between good and evil Force.
It was so good to see the old gang together again a little over 30 years after "Return of the Jedi". Harrison Ford was still the scruffy, wisecracking scoundrel Han Solo. Carrie Fisher has abandoned her iconic cinnamon buns and princess garb for a style more fitting for a military general rank that Leia now holds. Unlike his human friends, the loyal giant Wookiee sidekick Chewbacca looked ageless, maintaining his shiny brown fur and strong howling growls. C3PO was still as amusing as ever, as R2D2 was still as lovable. The fans in the audience could not help but burst into nostalgic applause when these beloved characters (including Luke's blue lightsaber) appeared on screen for the first time.
When I first saw the new cast in the trailers, I was not so sure I will like them. But as this film went along, they turned out to be likeable after all and their stories were engaging. Daisy Ridley played spunky scavenger Rey. John Boyega played conflicted Stormtrooper Finn. Oscar Isaac played cocky ace pilot Poe Dameron. Adam Driver played the masked and dangerous Kylo Ren. At first, it felt as if Luke, Leia, Han and Darth Vader were reborn in these new characters to continue the ongoing story. However, there were surprises as to how their characters developed which will make the next installments essential viewing.
I have to make special mention of my favorite new computer-generated character Maz Kanata, played by Lupita Nyong'o. This was a bespectacled old lady who ran another one of those seedy bars you expect to see in a Star Wars movie. I liked the way this character was introduced and developed in the short time she was onscreen. I hope to see more of her in the coming films.
Overall, this new Star Wars installment was one exhilarating and entertaining epic. As can be anticipated, the technical aspects were absolutely astounding -- the sweeping cinematography, the fantastic visual effects, the grand musical score and the heart-pounding sound effects (the Dolby Atmos was worth it!). All my high expectations were met. Admittedly, the plot contained several familiar elements seemingly rehashed from the previous films especially Episode 4, but it is all about innovative spins, and director J.J. Abrams is a master of spin. This Episode 7 is as much a reboot as it was a sequel, a very spectacular and jubilant one at that. 10/10.