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Review – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Review The Force Awakens

Review – Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Directed by: JJ Abrams

Produced by: JJ Abrams & Kathleen Kennedy

Written by: Lawrence Kasdan & JJ Abrams

Starring: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac & Adam Driver

Release Date: December 17th 2015

Remember that time when an exciting, entertaining Star Wars movie came out for the first time in 30 years? Remember how everyone loved that movie at first and then everyone simultaneously turned on it? Well last night, I watched The Force Awakens for review for the first time in a few years and I still very much enjoyed it.

Let’s begin by talking about the cast of this new trilogy. A lot has been said since this movie’s release about the wooden, phoned-in performances from this trilogy, some of which I agree with. However, going by this movie alone, the three leads are fantastic in their performances. Daisy Ridley does a fine job with Rey, John Boyega is probably the best he’ll be in the whole trilogy as Finn in this film and Oscar Isaac oozes charismas as Poe Dameron in the same way he does in all of his roles.

Review The Force Awakens

Poe has the smallest role out of the three, which is my biggest and only complaint about the character. Issac is funny in the role, he is believable as an amazing pilot and he reeks of cool throughout the film. Finn works as the in-over-his-head character dealing with an inner conflict, but he still manages to be likeable and relatable.

Rey is the most central of the three new main cast members and Daisy Ridley also delivers in her role for the most part. She sells the fairly bland character trope of dealing with an exciting new adventure calling her name pretty well. I do think in hindsight that she possibly could have done a bit more in a few of the movie’s scenes, as at times it does sort of feel like they could have cast anyone of a similar age in this role and they would have been just as good.

Of course, the old cast are also back. Anthony Daniels as C3PO is just as irritating as he was 30 years ago. Carrie Fisher is back as Leia and the while lines she had are engaging and at times touching, she simply isn’t in the movie enough. As for Han, it is nice to see grumpy old gramps Harrison Ford actually looking enthusiastic and as if he is actually enjoying himself for a change. His performance surprisingly isn’t phoned in and he genuinely commits to the role just as much as he did 30 years ago. Also, out of the original returning cast, he is definitely the highlight.

Review The Force Awakens

Now that we have discussed the light side, now let’s move onto the dark. These characters are nowhere near as strong as the protagonists. I don’t think that this was the fault of the actors though. Domnall Gleason as Hux does a decent job with his role being the super evil and almost Nazi-like character trope. It does feel a bit one-note, but he serves his purpose in the film’s larger narrative. Andy Serkis is intimidating in his performance as Snoke, which just makes it more of a shame when you see what they do to his character in the sequels. Adam Driver delivers one of the best performances in the movie as Kylo Ren, showing deep sadness and explosive anger, all while being an unhinged threatening presence.

The problem here is that the villains in this movie just don’t have the same impact as the villains in the original trilogy. Hux and Ren are made out to be young and naïve and while Snoke is pulling the strings, but we only ever see him as a hologram and even then, we don’t see him all that much. Couple that along with the fact that we now that we know he was a mere puppet the whole time an he feels even less threatening.

Review The Force Awakens

It is as if this film serves origin story for these villains, but in A New Hope, the villains and the Empire already felt like an established organisation. Whereas, in this movie it is as if a bunch of amateurs have happened across a new Death Star, because let’s not lie, that’s all that the Starkiller base really is. As for Captain Phasma? She is hardly worth talking about. She is in two scenes and does nothing in either of them besides let herself get taken advantage of. When I first saw the film, I remember thinking, “surely they will do more with her in the sequels though.” Spoilers; they don’t.

A great deal has also been said in the last few years about JJ Abrams’ handling of the sequel trilogy and whether his attempt at damage control has done more harm that good for the franchise. Whether you agree with that or not, in this film at least, he captures the tone of what Star Wars should be perfectly. The Force Awakens is funny enough that it is constantly entertaining and never boring, but serious enough that the audience feels a genuine, palpable threat throughout.

Review The Force Awakens

The score is also fantastic, as it always is when John Williams is involved. The movie’s special effects are spot on also. Some of the CGI characters are slightly distracting, namely Snoke, the tentacle monsters that show up briefly and the market owner that was in possession of the Falcon at the start of the movie played by Simon Pegg, but there were also a lot of puppets and practical effects used and it really pays off in the overall look of the movie.

The pacing of this movie is very quick, with Abrams not really giving the viewers time to breathe and digest what just unfolded before throwing another dogfight or lightsaber battle at them, but you certainly can’t accuse it of being boring. The only issue is, because of all of the significant events that happen so quickly nothing really stands out in the end somewhat leaving a lack of meat on the bone.

The story is well written however, the new planets and locations are built well and the characters are all introduced well enough. Of course, the story does follow a lot of the same beats as the original trilogy and A New Hope in particular. The story is divided up into three distinct acts, with each taking place on a different planet followed by an epilogue at the end. There is a cantina scene, a robot carrying an important message to be delivered, Tie Fighter vs. X Wing dogfights and a death star-like weapon of mass destruction, there is even a trench run.

After re-watching The Force Awakens for review, I have came away feeling conflicted. This is still a very fun movie, there is no denying that. However, so many plot elements were set up without ever having an end goal in sight, which ended up being the sequel trilogy’s fatal flaw. It is sad to think about what could have been based off this initial film, but it is what it is.

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Daniel Boyd

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Daniel is a 26-year-old writer from Glasgow. He loves sci-fi and hates fantasy. He also hates referring to himself in the third person and thinks that bios are dumb.

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