Genre: Science-fiction, epic space-opera
Director/s: J.J. Abrams
Running Time: 135 mins
Budget: $200 million
Released: 16 December 2015
Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably one of the most anticipated films in the last decade (since 2005’s Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith), and after many teasers and much hype it is finally here. With new and old faces alike and promises of a back to basics, practical effects-driven Star Wars experience, The Force Awakens promises to undo the damage that the prequel trilogy has done to the franchise’s credibility with director J.J. Abrams at the helm. Backed by Disney’s inexhaustible financing, the 200 million dollar sci-fi epic is a visual spectacle and opens a wonderful new chapter to the Star Wars universe.
So the first paragraph pretty much tells you that The Force Awakens is good, and it is – real good, and if you were able to avoid the hype machine then you will probably have enjoyed this film even more. I make a point of limiting my trailer watching to the odd teaser only as trailers have a way of spoiling films in my opinion, don’t believe me, then check out the Rise of the Silver Surfer teaser trailer which revealed the entire Human Torch/Silver Surfer chase scene – that was the defining moment for me. Anyway, I digress, as a huge Star Wars fan I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens and it definitely had that nostalgic, classic Star Wars feel to it although it’s still not as brilliant as the originals, least of all Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.
So let’s start with the good stuff. Firstly, fans have been clamoring for that original Star Wars feel since Return of the Jedi, while I for one did enjoy the prequel films, many people did not. J.J. Abrams has managed to produce a film that is something of a love-note or ode to fans of the first trilogy. Abrams’ attention to detail has enabled him to add all the essential ingredients to The Force Awakens that was sorely lacking from the prequels with the result that we are given a true Star Wars experience. The acting is spot on, the effects are amazing and most of all, the film is just plain fun.
So what’s it all about then? Well without giving too much away – The Galactic Empire has been succeeded by The First Order, armed with a new breed of Stormtrooper, Star Destroyers and the mysterious Kylo Ren, The First Order wishes to seek out a droid named BB-8 which holds the key to finding Luke Skywalker, who has since gone into exile after failing to re-build the Jedi Order. A scavenger named Rey discovers BB-8 and together with Finn – an ex-stormtrooper, Han Solo and Chewbacca, they set off to help the rebel cause and put an end to The First Order’s new Starkiller base.
So all-in all a pretty solid premise however, in an effort to re-create the original Star Wars flavour, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from A New Hope, and this is one of the key points of criticism of the film. It follows the original formula a little too closely, as broken down below:
- Luke Skywalker, farm boy on desert planet forced to leave his home to find his destiny | Rey, a scavenger on a desert planet forced to leave her home to find her destiny.
- Both Luke and Rey cross paths and join forces with Han Solo and Chewbacca
- The Galactic Empire is embroiled in a battle with rebels | The First Order is embroiled in a battle with rebels.
- R2D2 carries crucial information to the rebel cause, as does BB-8.
- Both films have planet-sized world-ending weapons, namely The Death Star from the original trilogy and the new Starkiller base of the First Order…
- …which leads to the fact that both bases have exposed weaknesses susceptible to a small rebel attack force.
- Darth Vader | Kylo Ren
So while there are a lot of similarities, The Force Awakens is still a great film, and a great gateway for the newer generation to experience the old Star Wars nostalgia so many veteran fans will tell you of. The other criticism is that Kylo Ren is a rather weak villain, a poor facsimile of Darth Vader. While this may be true, as Vader was definitely on a different level, I believe that Kylo Ren was purposely made to be weak, as he struggles to embrace the dark side of the force and follow in Vader’s footsteps. It’s also worth noting that Kylo Ren is undoubtedly being groomed for an ‘ascension’, no doubt in the next couple films, and I think that’s where we’ll really see his power and true potential as a worthy villain.
Furthermore, there is a lot to like about The Force Awakens – the TIE Fighters, X-Wings, Millennium Falcon and various nostalgic locales (akin to Endor and Hoth) combined with fresh faces and just enough fan service (Han, Chewy, the Falcon), make for a great sci-fi experience and needless to say everything is looking flawless thanks to big-budget nature of the film. The Force Awakens feels like the true continuation of the Star Wars Saga, not that I’m discounting the prequels, only that the prequels seem far removed (almost like a different series of films) from the dusty, retro-future styling of the originals and Episode VII.
So were I to nit-pick, I’d say it would have been nice to have seen a bit more lightsaber action, at its heart, The force Awakens is a space opera and is rather devoid of the epic lightsaber duels we have come to expect, although I expect they will become more frequent in the upcoming sequels and apart from the similarities with A New Hope, I can’t really fault The Force Awakens, it’s a solid sci-fi epic and worthy chapter to the Star Wars mythos. Highly recommended.
Score | A