I’m going to enter spoiler territory in this review so if you haven’t seen this film yet, stop reading now…
Right lets go. I’ve been a massive Star Wars fan ever since I heard The Empire Strikes Back book on tape when I was a nipper. When Disney announced they had bought Star Wars from George Lucas and subsequently announced that they would be doing a new trilogy to continue the story after Return of the Jedi, I wasn’t sure if I should be excited or skeptical. Would this just be a money grabbing exercise or could they bring back some of the magic that was lost when they did the three prequels (don’t get me wrong, the prequels were decent films but they were not a patch on the original trilogy.? Then, when they announced that J.J Abrams would be directing it, my hopes were raised. His take on Star Trek was a great take on a well loved series. I’ve never been a massive Star Trek fan but I really enjoyed his film. So, could he breath new life into one of cinemas greatest franchises? Thankfully, the answer to that is a resounding yes, you’re damn right he can.
The plot is very reminiscent of A New Hope. There’s a young person on a desert planet longing for adventure, a droid with an important message that has to get to the good guys. a deep voiced helmeted villain in black and a gigantic super-weapon with a specific weak point that needs to be destroyed. They even had a bar scene with a menagerie of strange aliens half way through the film. However rather than feeling like a cheap rehash, they manage to keep this story fresh with brilliant new characters as well as excellent turns by the original cast (okay, maybe a bit of a stretch to call Mark Hamills return as Luke Skywalker excellent, since all he does do some solemn staring, but still LUKE SKYWALKERS BACK!). Harrison Ford in particular slips back into the role as if he never left it, bringing a sense of a man who’s seen it all, done it all and just wants to get back to what he does best. His reluctance to get drawn back into the fight between good and evil is brilliantly portrayed by Ford. This also makes his death scene (which I will get into later) all the more heartbreaking, knowing we won’t see one of films most iconic characters on screen again. Well, not in any large sense, I’m still going to hold out hope for cameos in future films. Abrams‘ decision to use more practical effects for this film works very well its favor, giving the film more grounded, lived in feel to it. When CGI is used though, it is generally used very well, particularly in the spectacular battle scenes. One of my favorite shots in the whole films comes partway through when a squadron of X-Wings is seen in the distance flying low over a lake, their exhaust trails the only sign of them as they race to save our heroes from the First Order (this films Imperial Army).
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac play our new heroes Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron respectively and they do a fantastic job doing it. We also have a new droid named BB-8 who nearly steals the film from the human cast, using assorted beeps and motions to convey all sorts of emotions and providing some of the films funniest moments. Luckily, the chemistry between the new characters prevents BB-8 from stealing the show completely, particularly between Finn and Poe Dameron. Their scenes together provide more lighthearted moments, which border on the bromantic side of things. I’m hoping that by Episode 8, they have become the new Han and Chewie, travelling the galaxy and getting into all sorts of intergalactic shenanigans. Daisy Ridley is excellent as Rey, the young orphaned scavenger who was abandoned on the desert Planet Jakku by her (as yet unrevealed) parents. In particular, her scenes later in the film as she discovers she can use the Force stand out, as Ridley brilliantly plays the confusion and eventual acceptance of her strange new powers.
For me however, they stand out in the film was Adam Driver as new villain Kylo Ren. What could have been a one dimensional Darth Vader clone, is turned into one of the most complex characters in the whole film. The revelation that he is the son of Leia and Han adds a brilliant angle for the character as he struggles between his loyalty to the Dark Side and to his parents. All this builds up to the scene i mentioned earlier, Han Solos death scene. The acting in this scene was phenomenal, both actors giving fantastic performances. I’m not ashamed to admit, the first time I saw this film I let out an audible gasp when Kylo ignited that lightsaber in Hans chest. Driver gives an incredibly intense performance, especially in his “tantrum” scenes. With little to no words, he conveys the sheer frustration and anger that he feels when he realizes he may not be as all powerful as he had been led to believe. I am thoroughly looking forward to the path to take this character down in the future sequels.
As far as downsides to the film go, the were practically non existent. One or two characters were slightly underdeveloped. Captain Phasma in particular, who had been built up in the marketing in the lead-up to this film as the new Boba Fett, had surprisingly little to do. But I guess that’s why we’re getting two more films, to flesh all these new characters out. Overall, this was a very minor gripe. The Force Awakens is a film that everyone can enjoy. For fans who have been there from the beginning, the film provides a wonderful, nostalgic, exciting trip back to a galaxy far, far away. For those who are new to the series, it provides an excellent introduction to the series and its myriad of characters and stories. Overall, just a fantastic film. Star Wars is back, and with the two sequels and numerous spin offs planned or rumored, it won’t be going away soon. May the Force be with us all.