Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler-free)
It’s rare a film comes along that fans are so excited to see; they take pictures of a blank screen to document the time they sat in a cinema. That’s the power of Star Wars and with The Force Awakens, is this the film we’re looking for?
Yes. And all is forgiven for the prequel trilogy.
Picking up the story 30 years after Return of the Jedi, this film is quick to align itself with the original trilogy and pretend the first three episodes never existed. Whether it’s through the JJ Abrams’ reliance on physical effects, or through he and veteran co-writer Lawrence Kasdan’s narrative that essentially remixes the old lore fans admire with gripping new storylines, this took me back to when I watched the first Star Wars at six years old.
Simply put, it’s a film dedicated to the fans, for better and worse.
It recaptures the sense of wonderment and adventure, which was lost under the bulk of Trade Federation politics and semi-circle meetings in the prequels. The nostalgia doesn’t feel like cheap fan service (looking at you, Star Trek), it runs deep from theming to well-timed character reveals that make sense in the story. And what’s more, we see the beginning of a ‘passing of the torch’ we can be proud of, as the new core protagonists are set up by the original cast to take the baton.
A spotlight is needed for the combat, which is more ‘Darth Vader using his lightsaber like a baseball bat in Empire Strikes Back’ than ‘Yoda does ridiculous flips fighting Count Dooku in Attack of the Clones.’ The battles are almost like watching a ballet of chaos gradually unfold into absolute chaos, and it captures the essence that made the old trilogy wars so fantastic. They feel like they have purpose.
You’re quickly introduced to your new cast members, who are an absolute triumph of talent and diversity. Daisy Ridley delivering a performance reminiscent of Keira Knightley in Pirates of the Carribean as a hero with a vague past. John Boyega, a turncoat stormtrooper from The First Order (this trilogy’s super-Fascist Galactic Empire), who delivers a lot of the comic relief but not to the point where we don’t take him seriously. Oscar Isaac as a dashing leader of the rebellion’s flight squadron.
Finally, Adam Driver as the key antagonist of the piece Kylo Ren. He delivers an incredible performance as the villain, emotionally driven and a great bad guy with a true depth of purpose to the story (not expendable like Darth Maul).
In order to stay spoiler-free, I won’t delve into other older character performances. Except to say they will leave you in a state of nerdy over-excitement; the appearance of Han Solo and Chewbacca left me feeling like the six-year-old watching A New Hope all over again.
The only character I’m in two camps about would be the droid BB-8. The design purpose of the character is clear: more movement and noise outputs create more potential for the robot to convey emotion, but to me it comes across more cartoon. But the rest of the cinema cooed at the ‘cuteness’ of the robot, and there were some funny moments of dialogue.
In another perfect progression of soundscape, John Williams has pulled it out the bag yet again. The soundtrack accompanies the swells and fades of the story with expert precision, while helping reinforce the reminiscent nature of The Force Awakens through subtle nods to the melody lines of old.
But I digress. What’s more important here is the sum of all parts. The Force Awakens is not the film we want, but the one we so desperately needed a decade after the underwhelming fan service we were given.
It’s epic in scale with the heart to deliver an emotional impact. This is the real episode four, which makes the memory of any prequels disappear in a haze of spectacular action, driven by a gripping story. I may be saying this from the biased position of a Star Wars fanatic, but this is a blockbuster that can be enjoyed by everyone.
The best $4 billion Disney has ever spent.