Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens [2015]

A review by The Raven.
Please note: There are massive spoilers in this review.

Lightsabers and ‘troopers, anyone?

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Opening Thoughts:

At the age of 27, I finally watched my first Star Wars movie in the theatre – and it was out of this world. When I first heard about the films growing up, they never appealed to me. They were too mainstream and everyone liked them – so in true raven fashion, I steered away. But I watched Episode 4 a few weeks before the release of Force awakens, and I do wish I had tested the waters earlier, because I really really like this universe. We all know that franchises from the 90s are coming back in a huge way, and none of them could even hope to hit the nostalgia button with the force that Hans Solo and Chewbacca did. Now, I can see why.

J.J. Abrams directed, co-produced and co-wrote Force Awakens, following a pretty impressive run of titles in the film and tv world alike, including – Armageddon, Star Trek, Super 8, Mission: Impossible and TV shows Fringe and Lost. He is often called the love child of Mr. Lucas and Mr. Spielberg.

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Thoughts on Plot:

The plot is interesting enough – we follow Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who gets embroiled in a plot with a mix of old & new characters present in the Star Wars universe – and together they look for Luke Skywalker, as well as fight against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) alongside the resistance. The plot cleverly sets up different storylines, which all tie up in the end – which is why this film worked for me. It flowed. It layered various characters and outlines in a soft, perfect tracing paper stencil that fell into place exactly at the right time. I enjoyed this film’s script, except for certain holes in the end which cut off some points on the over all score.

When I first heard the premise, it did seem quite generic, given I’m not a hardcore fan, this seemed inviting to an otherwise overwhelming universe. Friends pointed out that it was unoriginal, as it contained past pillars from previous movies in the series. An example of this was the motive of eventually destroying a death star, the desert landscape and ensemble of rogue characters. So its important to keep in mind that they’ve followed a somewhat already tread, but highly successful, blockbuster path. One could counter this point with the fact that thats the very essence of the franchise – and that by altering it too much, would alienate long time fans.

The First Order is effectively a parallel to The Empire, pretty much cloning the same mass armies we’ve seen before – simply reinvented in bold shades of red, black and white.

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Execution:

This film has two strong arms – one: the character portrayals and the second: the cinematic execution of the script. Most of the start of the film is spent with Rey (Daisy Ridley), which is great because before you know it, one of Hollywood’s most fun sidekicks in recent movie history comes onboard: BB-8. Shots of the desert and scraps are reminiscent to pretending to be in battle as little kid; reliving the world of Star Wars with our fake lightsabers in huge sandpits with our friends, and it is a beautiful feeling, which the movie cashes in on perfectly.

It gets better with Han and Chewie reuniting onscreen in a fluid, humorous fashion true to the 70s. Watching Luke and General Leia once again, amidst the new characters like Finn (John Boyega) and space pirate Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is like being able to wear your old comfortable pyjamas while eating nitrogen cooled icecream. A bit of the past, a bit of the future. And as I mentioned cinematic execution – this movie was visually a masterpiece. From sprawling red sand lands to icy cold forests, every terrain, every large shot filled you up with a bright sense of vastness. This movie brought forth some of the most sharp, stellar VFX shots of outer space i’ve ever seen on the big screen. The soundtrack enhances the movie, and really cements the film into the space opera genre.

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The movie for me, failed ever so slightly at the end. When all the strings were meant to come together to form a perfect web, a few hung loose – particularly the strings pertaining to Han Solo’s death, and Supreme Leader Snoke. Both are pretty big plot points if you ask me – but they felt vague and powerless, and it left me wishing these shots were given more care, just like so many of the action scenes before it were. Star Wars is heavily emotionally laced, so the drama bits need to be given just as much importance as the VFX, the sets and makeup, script and even the shots themselves – because as it turns out, the characters are key. Perhaps just a few more practises or rehearsals could have made this more intense. Im hoping to see more the extent of Snoke’s powers in future movies.

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The Chosen Ones:

REY – Daisy Ridley 8/10

Armed with an old school charm, Daisy is a breath of fresh air in another wise drab horizon of young actresses. She emotes incredibly well and handles the challenge of being the first new character in the Star Wars universe after all this time, with ease and confidence. Enjoyable to watch on screen, Rey’s character could do no wrong, and was somehow good at everything. While some may argue this made her boring and void of conflict and personality craters, I contest the fact due to her portrayal of strength and bravery in the final few battle scenes.

HAN SOLO – Harrison Ford 8/10

A little weathered, a little older – but still full of total fun and adventure. Ford slips back into the role of Han Solo almost like it is second skin, and there isn’t much to really complain about. Yes, he seems a bit ploddier at time, but hey – he’s old!

CHEWBACCA – Peter Mayhew 8/10

Very well done, fluffiness.

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KYLO REN – Adam Driver 6/10

Perhaps the only character that didn’t work for me in this film was Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren. Barring the fact that I’m familiar with Adam’s character in the TV show Girls, Driver makes it very difficult to take him seriously with that goofy expression and overgrown geek avatar. I do not compute him to be a highly powerful, scary character, no matter how hard I try. Also, do you see any genetics at play or resemblance to Hans or Leia? I don’t either. I would’ve definitely cast someone else for this role, to have elevated the movie to an almost perfect score.

GENERAL LEIA – Carrie Fisher 6/10

She is still graceful and beautiful, but you’ll only get her in short bursts in this movie. So cant rate her based on lack of visual information.

FINN – John Boyega 7.5/10

The perfect opposite half to Rey, Finn’s character which is grounded, thoughtful and persistent – broke through an independent, feisty girl’s shell and managed to foster a new friendship. We dont know if they have romantic inclinations, but theres is a kind of birds of the same feather vibe surrounding them for sure. Boyega is fun to watch, and maintains his own well in an ensemble group.

LUKE SKYWALKER – Mark Hamill 9/10

Though we only see Luke at the end, he has been there in the movie throughout – driving the plot to that final point. The culmination of the unveiling of his character after so many years is quite emotional, and I personally think Hamill nailed his expressions through his final, befitting scene with Rey, at the aquatic planet Ahch-To.

POE DAMERON – Oscar Isaac 6/10

Nothing wrong with his performance, nothing spectacular either. To be honest, I couldn’t even remember his character standing out, around the likes of Rey, Han Solo and Finn. However, that is the point – and for that reason I suppose Oscar Isaac fit the character completely.

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Closing Thoughts:

What could’ve been a massive fail turned out to be a whirlwind of an adventure; a classic akin to the kinds we grew up on. Raking in over a staggering 2 billion dollars worldwide, The Force Awakens also picked up awards at the Oscars, Emmys and BAFTAs. It’s one of those commercial successes that is actually a decent example of what a franchise can evolve into, if given the right budget, cast and flexibility around the script ofcourse. With VFX and cinematics at an almost all time high in today’s movies – the lasting effect a movie has on us still comes down to the storyline and how strongly it shakes us. J.J. Abrams managed to get that bit right, and therefore kept the force alive.

Following the same tone of Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Pirates of the Caribbean – The Force Awakens has paved the way for this generation’s turn of a Star Wars saga. And the main characters who are leading the pack – Rey, Poe and Finn – are a solid trio that may very well maintain and carry that responsibility victoriously. Heres hoping. 

Overall Rating: 8/10

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