Star Wars: The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams takes the biggest film franchise and blends wonderfully the original films with the new ones. Not a film void of problems by any stretch of the manner, this is still a film that offers something I think a lot of Star Wars fans have been waiting a while for.
I usually take this point to give a general outline of the plot of the film I’m reviewing. Let’s be honest right now, this is Star Wars, you either know the general plot already or are avoiding anything to do with the film in case of spoilers. What I’ll say plot wise (again no spoilers) is that it is a very Star Wars-esque plot, the film isn’t going to bore you (ala the prequels) nor is it going to deliver you something unexpected (ala again, you know generally what to expect). I think the film does an okay job with the overall story but that’s something I’ll dive into later.
So where to start? I guess first I’ll dive into the new cast of characters for The Force Awakens: John Boyega who plays Finn, Daisy Ridley who plays Rey and Oscar Isaac who plays Poe Dameron, make up the new main cast for this Star Wars film and to put my thoughts on them simply, they’re great.
For a little more detail though I’ll say this. Daisy Ridley (Rey) who helms a large part of the film is captivating. Not only does she offer up a mysterious back story that certainly gets me intrigued, but I also think that a lot of the heart comes from this character. While everyone is damaged in their own way it was her broken pieces that certainly had me the most interested. It excites me going forward for what will become of her character, especially after some of the events in second and third acts.
Next to Daisy Ridley is John Boyega (Finn). While also another broken down person a lot of the levity comes from this character. Finn is a fun character and getting to watch his growth through the film and other ones to come is something I like. I feel this is a character that will grow a lot over the next films – as will a lot of other characters and perhaps on a greater scale but I still am excited to see the scared person who wants nothing more than to run become something greater.
Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) is the third addition to the films. Unfortunately there isn’t much time afforded to this character. Apart from now knowing how great of a pilot he is, the film doesn’t really offer much else. It’s a shame because I love Oscar Isaac, he is one of my favourite actors to watch on screen right now and he brings such originality to his characters each time. I was hoping to get some of that here but in all that goes on in this film it just didn’t happen. Oh well, there’s always next time.
Returning to reprise their roles from the original trilogy is Carrie Fisher as Leia and Harrison Ford as Han Solo. I was dubious when I first heard that the old cast of characters were coming back (they weren’t necessarily looking their best). But I’m glad to say that it works. It’s warming to see them back and it’s also nice that that they do good job of stepping back into the roles. It felt comforting to see these characters back on the big screen and I think how they were ultimately handled within the film was fitting. No more dubiousness from me.
Now I get to the new big bad, Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. I am so on board with this character. There’s conflict within him and it’s different and it is very interesting. There was only one moment where I wasn’t sure if Adam Driver was the right fit but he soon did away with that concern. The aura around Kylo Ren is exciting and I really think they’ve got something special with that character.
The last thing I want to say when characters are concerned is someone who for me personally was a hugely miscast. I’m talking about Domhnall Gleeson who plays General Hux. For me Gleeson completely misses the mark; every line he delivers is off and every moment he is present it feels like someone released over acting gas into the scene and he breathed it all in for himself. I couldn’t take him seriously and I’m worried for what is to come with this character.
It’s now at this point that I have to do something that may bother some hardcore Star Wars fans, talk about some of the things that I feel were not good in the film. My main issue with the film was the plot and how it was structured. It doesn’t take long after seeing the film to put together just how similar the general plotting of Force Awakens is to mainly A New Hope but also elements of 5 and 6 as well. Now Force Awakens does still have more than enough of its own story to tell and certainly introduces some new and exciting story elements to the Star Wars films. I t for me though felt odd that at times they were blazing their own new path and then would cram in a plot point very similar to ones from the previous films and then it left me knowing how the part would play out. It’s almost as if this film was being pulled in two directions, the past and the future, that also brings up something that I’ll jump into in a minute.
What I think was most harmful to the story in The Force Awakens is the ridiculous level of coincidences that happen… because film logic. The film takes a lot of liberty with how it wants to connect itself together. People appear places because they need that to happen. Certain events occur because why not? Now it means we can make a reference to something even if it doesn’t really make sense how we got here. The film takes such large leaps in logic that it gets to the point where you have to throw your arms up and just accept it. Things get silly and it wasn’t always for a good reason. But I think I might know why the film made such silly leaps in logic and it has to do with the thing that can sometimes cripple a film, nostalgia.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is filled to the brim with nods and call-backs to the old films, and rightly so. I was more that prepared/looking forward to the occasional reference to the other films, I just perhaps wasn’t ready for how many there would be and how intrusive they would ultimately become. The Force Awakens doesn’t have it easy, this is a film that has to not only serve the old fans but try to bring in a whole new bunch of them. This is a film with two identities and the fight to become the dominant one hurt the film slightly.
So you have a story that is partly rehashed and partly new. You have a structure that is broken and makes great leaps in logic and you have an overabundance of call-backs (some not being necessary). You then also have new and exciting characters; you have a new trilogy that is taking us on a whole new adventure and you have hindsight over past mistakes. More than anything I think the story of The Force Awakens and the little elements within it show a film of two different times. It doesn’t break the film overall and people in general seem to be fine with it, but it is interesting to see how something like nostalgia (which is not always a force for good, *wink*) can disrupt a film.
But now I want to take a little moment to talk about something specifically. The lightsaber fights in The Force Awakens are a beautiful return to what I loved about them. There’s humanity put back into them. There feels like genuine weight and consequence to one hitting the other. I am so excited going forth to see this continue. I still get chills when I watch the lightsaber duel between Darth Vader and Luke in Return of the Jedi and I am hopeful and excited to see these films do the same.
I now want to give a little love to a man who I think handled the impossible, J.J Abrams. This is a man who took on a herculean task and I think succeeded. He brought things that made the original trilogy great and also utilised the advancements in film technology appropriately within the film. The thing that made me so happy was the brilliant blend of practical effects and visual effects. There was a moment in the film (no spoilers) it was near the beginning and Rey was traveling to the small trader town. On her journey she passed a bird pecking at something. The reason this stood out to me was that it was a little animatronic bird. It didn’t have to be – they could have simply added that bird in with CGI and never think twice about it. But they didn’t, they went to that small (some may say insignificant) effort to do that. When I saw that a smile came across my face and I knew that this film was going to appeal to me on a film geek level. The practical effects in this film were glorious and I loved/appreciated every one of them
Something that surprised me in The Force Awakens yet I’m not sure why is that J.J. was able to incorporate some of his directorial elements. I noticed them a lot in action scenes (the use of the camera). I don’t know why but I was expecting J.J. to hide his style from the film. I’m glad some of his little flares made it into the film.
The last thing I want to say about J.J. and The Force Awakens is how perfectly it captures the tone, feel, look of the original films. A lot of care and attention went into making this like the old films while also still putting in something new. I think J.J. Abrams did a wonderful job delivering a film that should not be possible to get right – a good starting point indeed for the new trilogy.
So there you have it, that is me review for The Force Awakens. The film isn’t perfect, it has a few missteps but I am still happy with the joyous ride back into Star Wars that this film was. It’s been too long old friend.
So yes I’m obviously going to recommend Star Wars: The Force Awakens it would be stupid not to.
I’d love to know what you thought of The Force Awakens or this review, let me know in the comments down below. If you want to keep up with the rest of my stuff then perhaps give me a follow in Twitter, @GavinsTurtle. I hope you had a great Christmas.