Jesus, after the debauchery that was the prequels who ever thought this was going to happen?
Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens picks up 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the Rebellion is still around and in place of the Empire we now have the First Order helmed by Kylo Ren who are trying to hunt the last of the Jedi. After the whereabouts of a Jedi falls into the hands of deserted Storm Trooper, Finn, and a scrapper, Rey, on the desert planet of Jakku they then are hunted across the galaxy trying to get the information to the Rebellion. And that’s about all you can say before getting into spoilers but there’s a LOT more to this film than that.
JJ Abrams directed this and has made it possibly the best looking Sci-Fi film there has been to date. There is a wonderful blend of technology within the practical (yet familiar) terrain. Everything wasn’t perfect and shiny, there was wear and tear and he made excellent use of practical effects when doing the action as well. You can tell as much of this film was shot on location as possible rather than on green screen and it does makes a huge difference when engaging as a viewer. This coupled with the action not being overly-choreographed make what is being seen more compelling and real, something the prequels were horrendously guilty of. This film is not all about action though and Abrams manages to balance a lot of this action out with some genuine emotional moments and succeeds as The Force Awakes is written extremely well. The set ups of these moments are varied and is a testament to him as a film maker to deliver these scenes and have an impact even though some of them are quite predictable. The film also has a lot of humour throughout but it never feels forced and as a viewer you never get tired of it. The new droid on the block BB-8 facilitates a lot of this and he isn’t overused. There’s a lot of physical comedy along with some witty banter and all of the actors rise to the challenge.
The acting across the board was great. The old trio all played their parts well and were actually there to move the plot forward and not just hand the torch over to the new protagonists. Daisy Ridley and John Boyaga were excellent, they had good on screen chemistry and a charisma that made them fit into what they need to do perfectly. Many of their scenes is showing what happens to move along the plot rather than exposition and they both were more than convincing. It’s refreshing for a film to respect the audience enough to put the plot together themselves rather than them having to be told. Oscar Isaac too was enjoyable to watch as a Flash Gordon/Buck Rodgers type fighter pilot. Only wish we could’ve seen more of him. Adam Driver who plays Kylo Ren had the greatest turn and the way his villainous characters emotions and progression was handled was perfect for what he was doing in regards to the plot. There is a real humanising feel to him and a depth not seen in a villain in any of the other films.
This film hits all the right notes for those who grew up with Star Wars and has enough nostalgia on show that is interspersed with the new content keep you wanting to know more. Not to mention it is hugely immersive and extremely fun.
But is this film perfect?
The short answer is no.
At times it is quite predictable, especially if you are familiar with the Star Wars universe certain plot lines you can see coming from a mile away. Now and again can take you out of the moment on the screen but overall the film balances this out with developing new characters at the same time to keep the intrigue alive.
Nearly all the speaking characters were done using make up or animatronics but their were 2 who were obviously CGI, one looked really good, and one looked really shit. It would’ve been better (for consistency) to just have had them use real people as you are well aware you are looking at CGI characters, again it takes you out of the moment momentarily.
Without getting into spoilers there are events that take place in the third act and the gravity of what was happening wasn’t put across well at all. There is a lot going on and you feel that elements like this might be shown better in the directors cut but that is something that leads to events not having as much of an impact.
Some fans will be feeling left unfulfilled by the ending but as this was a film to set up the next 2 in the trilogy it’s not hugely surprising it doesn’t completely answer all the questions. The purpose of the film was to leave you wanting to know more and on that level it definitely succeeds.
The biggest criticism that can be laid with this film is that there are a lot of familiar events that happen that you have seen in previous films. This is a new story but throughout it is cascaded with some of the biggest elements from the old films and it can feel like a reboot at times. The film will never please everyone but on evidence this film had a duel purpose. It had to give fan service to all those that grew up with the franchise and it had to engage a whole new generation of fans too. It’s clear that the way they chose to do this was to use familiar events from the older films so that new fans can have a reference and a link to the rest of the franchise and what has been going on throughout. It is a risk to do this and as long as the next installment doesn’t replicate The Empire Strikes Back then it will succeed in its intention.
Even with a few negatives The Force Awakens overwhelms in so many other respects that it doesn’t affect the overall viewing of it.
This is a fun, funny, action packed film with a great cast that will meet the expectations of the old Star Wars fans and has enough fun to grasp the new. Abrams succeeds at constructing this installment to fill in missing gaps as well as leave the viewer wanting to know more from our new characters.