Review of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

the_force_awakens.jpg Wow.

Finally it is here, the latest instalment in the Star Wars franchise though doubtless only if you have been completely cut off from all media you will not be aware of this with it's huge coverage there. I have to say I have met this new instalment with some trepidation as to what a newcomer to the series would do to it though after what he has done with Star Trek, J.J. Abrams did sound promising to direct. I was not disappointed at all. I feared this would be a special effect spectacular at the expense of character and story - I was wrong on both parts though certainly the effects, much touted for being done “for real” rather than CGI, are incredible just not completely OTT.

If you don't want to know anything about the film before you see it, skip over the next paragraph…

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hammill), now a legend, has disappeared with the remnants of the former Empire - the “First Order” - seeking to find and destroy him. The resistance are also looking for Skywalker for his help in restoring peace to the galaxy in their battle against the First Order. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) has entrusted her best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), to find Skywalker. Obtaining a map to Skywalker, Dameron is attacked on the planet Jakku by the First Order but before being captured he places the map into the droid BB-8. A First Order stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) questions the First Order's actions particularly after the massacre of villagers on Jakku so decides to rescue Dameron to escape. After crashing on Jakku, FN-2187, now going by the name Finn, fears Dameron is dead and flees the wreck to come across Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger that has befriended BB-8. When they are once again tracked by the First Order they flee on the stolen Millennium Falcon. The Falcon is captured by a freighter piloted by Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). The Falcon reunion celebrations are short lived when they are attacked by disgruntled former employers causing them to flee with Rey and Finn on the Falcon. Going to the planet Takodana to seek help from Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) but their visit is cut short when the First Order fires a massive weapon to destroy several nearby planets then attack Takodana with troops only to be met by the x-wings of the resistance. Rey is taken captive by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the leader of the First Order and escape before Leia lands in her ship to be reunited with Han…Will they be able to destroy the First Order planet killer and rescue Rey?

Confusing? Perhaps a bit and this is my only slight criticism of the movie and one that cannot be helped with the baggage of the previous movies that must be taken forward in the story - Whereas Star Wars was a standalone, fairly straightforward, story this has the events from that movie and the ones that followed to complicate matters. Here there is almost an EXCESS of story building on the mythos of what has come before though, admittedly, as a fan, it is not entirely a bad thing. It does, however, mean that this film does not stand by itself as the first movie does. Admittedly, a minor quibble only.

It is great to see the old favourites on the screen again with Han playing a very large role here though Leia largely relegated to single word sentences. It is nice to see how the characters have moved on since the events of Return of the Jedi and see how the choices they have made effect the story of the here and now. The new characters complement the old very well and the acting of the new cast is very believable indeed with the requisite “what the heck is going on?” very well played. Indeed, it is through Finn's eyes that the audience are introduced to large amounts of the story. BB-8 is a welcome addition to the Star Wars droids universe as well becoming a character in his own right much as C-3P0 and R2-D2 did in the original films.

The effects are incredibly good as they are obviously made by those that love the franchise. It is obvious that every detail is thought of and looks very real indeed - The Cantina scene on Takodana, for example, harkens back to the Cantina scene in Star Wars but this time with far more elaborate and, frankly, believable characters populating the scene. This really shows that they relied on a large amount of practical effects and only used computer graphics where necessary. It looks gritty and real, not the glitzy future of Star Trek by any means and for this I, and doubtless many other fans, are grateful.

Great? Certainly. Must see? Absolutely, and see it on the big screen if at all possible, anything else would be a shame. Can't wait for the next instalment and thankfully we won't have to wait 10 years for the next…

After the Honeymoon...

Ok, it has been a few weeks since I first saw “The Force Awakens” and since then I have seen it in IMAX. Leaving the hype aside, what do I really think about this film? Well, what I will say is that parts of it feel like a repeat of what we have seen in the previous instalments: Yet another planet killer weapon (Star Wars, Return of the Jedi), a planet killer weapon with a flaw that can be attacked (Star Wars, Return of the Jedi), a visit to a cantina (Star Wars), a ground assault (Empire Strikes Back), problems with relatives who turn to the dark side (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi)…Certainly I remember when I saw “Force Awakens” this is what occurred to me as these events unfolded on the screen making me wonder why they couldn't come up with something different? The planet killer weapon is certainly one that hit me as being the most clichéd…

Is it a good movie? Certainly, I stand by that, but I have to say I am slightly disappointed in that they had to repeat themselves. I was hoping for something a bit more original. There is obviously a bigger story going on here and it seems to me they could have fallen back on the tried-and-true to fill out this initial chapter in the new series…Let us hope there is originality to come.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2015-12-22

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Studio: Lucasfilm

Year: 2015

Length: 135 minutes

Genre: Science Fiction

Other reviewed films by J.J. Abrams: