There are very few film franchises with as much staying power or devoted fans as the Star Wars franchise. Even a powerhouse series like the James Bond films doesn’t have the same dedicated following as Star Wars. Yes it is a merchandising juggernaut but Star Wars has always been more than that to the majority of its fans. It is a whole other world, a rich tapestry of stories and characters that have stayed with many of us since the earliest time we can remember. When George Lucas gave us the prequels in the late 90s/early 2000’s fans were fiercely divided by the new trilogy but since the last one in 2005 most fans had settled in to believing that was the last we would see of the Star Wars universe on the big screen. But then George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, it was game on. So this week sees the arrival on Blu-ray and DVD of the newest official chapter in the Star Wars Saga in 10 years and the start of an entirely new era with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
It has been 30 years since the events in Return of the Jedi and the stories of the Empire, the Rebels and the exploits of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Leia Organa have become the stuff of legend. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku who finds herself embroiled in a battle with the evil First Order and the mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) when she helps a rogue Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) who has defected from the First Order when he sees their true nature. Rey and Finn stumble upon a chance meeting with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) himself and decide to help the resistance to find a map that may lead them to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) himself and find new hope for the galaxy.
While expectations for a movie like this are astronomical, I had incredible faith in J.J. Abrams, a filmmaker who has not disappointed me yet in his career. There were those who claimed The Force Awakens was just a clone of the original Star Wars and I won’t dispute those claims, but I think making it so similar was the exact right thing to do to reintroduce the Star Wars universe to a new generation while still maintaining the nostalgia of those of us who grew up with it. And by making the story so similar we finally felt those goosebumps we got from the original trilogy while engaging with all new characters. The casting of Daisy Ridley and John Boyega was just brilliant. Both actors do an incredible job of fitting into the universe and winning over longtime fans, and Daisy Ridley in particular was so friggin good I can hardly convey it. She honestly became my all time favorite Star Wars character only behind Luke and Han. Maybe even only behind Luke, she was that good.
Abrams brilliantly updated the look of the film as well, again while still retaining the feel of the existing universe. It felt like the Star Wars of old but 30 years later. They nailed it. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is thrilling, exhilarating, spectacular, emotional, hilarious and action packed. It is literally all we could have hoped for in the first launch movie of the new era of Star Wars. Bring on Rogue One and Episode VIII!
The Blu-ray is absolutely one of the most impressive discs to be released in some time and sets a new bar to be beat in 2016. The picture is basically flawless, the sound is all encompassing and bombastic and the special features, while not as in depth as I would have liked, are still plentiful, informative and fun. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is THE disc to own so far this year. May the Force Be With You.