Star Wars! The newest film of one of the most popular franchises of all time has finally arrived after years of hype. Did it live up to the hype? Hell no. Nothing can live up to the expectations put on this film. But is it still good enough to finally wipe the memory of the prequels away? Yes. Mostly.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is directed by JJ. Abrams and stars Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Po Dameran (Oscar Isaac) as well as the return of the original cast. Set 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the villainous First Order led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has risen from the ashes of the Empire to continue to perpetuate the dark side across the galaxy. I’m attempting to be vague about the story here mostly as a compliment to quite possibly the best thing around The Force Awakens, its marketing. And I’m not talking about the constant ads and ridiculous promotional material (like trying to sell oranges with Star Wars because, why not?) but more so the drip feed of information in the press and the trailers. Honestly, we knew very little for sure leading into this film which is incredible in today’s modern landscape of trailers revealing way too much. This not only helped hyped this film to ridiculous levels but also gave it an air of mystery and excitement which both works with it and against once you finally see it.
While it may have a great sense of intrigue because of its marketing, it becomes very noticeable very quickly how much JJ has drawn from the original trilogy. This ranges from nostalgic nods to full blown plot points which may appease fans, but also makes the film somewhat predictable and on the safe side. While there’s certainly innovation here, this is absolutely engineered to harken back to the original trilogy and avoid the prequels. This is a logical decision but it stops the film from really being unique and taking the beloved franchise to new places.
On the plus side however, the connections to the original trilogy make this feel so much like a Star Wars movie. Thank you JJ. for not making this Lens Flare: The Movie. While it still feels modern thanks to the (of course) impressive digital effects, the use of practical whenever possible and all the same music and sound just sells how much of a continuation from the original trilogy this is.
Now on to the biggest question mark: the new cast. It makes me so happy to say it, but they are all exceptional. Daisy Ridley is a star in the making, delivering all the emotion, humour and relatability you would hope for. John Boyega is equally great, and just has possesses a palpable sense of energy and excitement. Oscar Isaac, while not quite the question mark of his co-stars, is also just reliable. While he is a little short-changed in comparison to Ridley and Boyega, the guy is incredibly likeable. Seriously, you would swear it’s some sort of subtle Jedi mind trick on the audience but it’s impossible not to like this guy.
The returning cast is just as good. Harrison Ford isn’t doing any Crystal Skull performance here – he IS Han Solo and its impossible not to see him as anything less. The same can be said for Carrie Fisher who has some very touching and smart scenes with Ford.
While I may be in the minority here, the only new cast member I’m uncertain about is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. While I think the writing, design and arch of the villain is certainly interesting, Driver did not convince me he was perfectly cast on the level of his costars. Not that he delivered a poor performance, but I think he was just miscast. On a few occasions he just seemed to feel like an angsty teenager rather than a Sith Lord, which certainly brings back memories best left alone. Someone who looked slightly older with more gravitas could have elevated the villain from just interesting to one of the highlights of the film. I hope that Driver convinces me otherwise in episode 8, but for now I don’t see him as an incredible villain.
So, in conclusion, while there may be a few faults with how much it draws from the original trilogy and the villain isn’t spectacular, The Force Awakens is by far the best Star Wars film we’ve had since 1983. Hopefully the first of many.
General Audience: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
Blockbuster: Highly Recommended
True Believers (Star Wars): You’ve probably already seen it by now.