MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING: Due to the advantages of being a British citizen, I have managed to see The Force Awakens a day before its American release. If you haven’t seen the film I strongly advise clicking away now and coming back when you’ve seen it (trust me, it’s worth it!).
It’s hard to say anything about Star Wars: The Force Awakens that hasn’t already been said. In a year where billion-dollar movies have been coming out in quick succession, some may think that a brand like Star Wars may no longer carry the same weight as before, especially after the crushing blow of three sub-par and truly disappointing prequels. It pleases me greatly to say that The Force Awakens brings Star Wars is back, and it is just as good as ever.
The Force Awakens revolves around Rey (Daisy Ridley), Fin (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) as they get caught up in the battle between the rebels and the First Order – the second coming of the Empire led by the nefarious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). With the help of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and other familiar faces, it is up to them to defeat the First Order and locate an old friend…
Straight off the bat, the plot for The Force Awakens is absolutely phenomenal. Although, at its core, it is more or less the plot of A New Hope, the inclusion of new characters and locations keeps things fresh even if it is fundamentally the same. Unlike A New Hope, however, The Force Awakens is rife with twists and turns in its plot. Most crushing and devastating was the death of Han Solo, something I was truly not expecting that blew me away. The strong writing makes these characters likeable, and there were never any points of the film that dragged: unlike some of the other films in the saga, I always felt that every location they visited was for a reason. I also loved some of the plot points that line up with the original trilogy in interesting ways, most notably the warped father-son relationship between Han and Kylo Ren mirroring that of Darth Vader and Luke. It really highlights that this new trilogy is going to remain faithful to the originals, and is something a little under the surface to appreicate. Inevitably, there were going to be some shortcomings, although the only one that disappointed me was the introduction of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who is unfortunately set up to be some Thanos-esque ‘big bad’ that we never get to grips with, which does leave the film feeling a lot more like a part of a trilogy than a standalone experience. Other than that, however, I was blown away by the film, thanks to the brilliant writing, fantastic twists and strong, character-driven plot.
On the note of characters, on the whole it was very good. As you may expect, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are all phenomenal in their respective roles, all having layered, deep performances while still providing an entertaining experience. They are set up here fantastically thanks to the writing, so that by the end you are really rooting for them, which bodes very well for the saga’s future. However, the main pull of this film is of course the return of the main players from the original trilogy, Han, Leia and Luke. All are absolutely fantastic, with Han being my personal favourite due to his huge character arc. We see an utterly new side of Han, which makes his crescendo as a character all the more rewarding. Ford’s performance is not only loyal to the character but very moving, for which I can only praise. Somewhat of a let down as Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, who appears in the film for just one scene right at the end. This is of course not down to him, but it would’ve been nice if he was in it more, especially when considering that the mystery surrounding his disappearance never really comes into fruition. There’s so many characters here so I’ll skim through the rest: Kylo Ren was great, if a bit underused, and Captain Phasma was pretty underwhelming due to her absence through most of the film. Oh, can’t forget BB-8. What a fantastic little droid.
From a technical aspect, The Force Awakens is just a marvel as the other films in the saga. I loved director J.J. Abrams’ decision to build practical sets for the actors to use instead of relying on green screens like George Lucas did for the prequels, because it gives the world the authenticity that made the original trilogy so special. That said, the CGI here is great, especially the wide establishing shots of vast structures like the fallen Star Destroyer on Jakku and the Starkiller Base. Lightsaber fights are handled excellently, although they are a bit sparse, but Abrams’ direction shines through as some of the best elements of this film. Action scenes are shot fantastically and cut tightly, and establishing shots have the potential to be truly breathtaking at points. Just like the original trilogy before it, The Force Awakens is a true technical achievement.
Having been out of the cinema for just an hour, I’m still struggling to articulate my thoughts about this film (so sorry if this review is rubbish) but I can say this: without a shadow of a doubt, this is my favourite film of 2015, and the best Star Wars film since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. My friends, Star Wars is back, and it’s never been quite as remarkable.
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