Disclaimer: I will avoid major plot and character spoilers in this review. However, please read this at your own discretion.
Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a new hope for the beloved and seminal science-fiction franchise. I went into the theatre yesterday afternoon sceptical and came out 135 minutes contented and excited to see where the new trilogy goes.
Before I get into the main content of today’s blog, I would like to make something clear. While I enjoyed this film and think it’s great to see new life breathed into Star Wars, this latest film is not a Star Wars film. Much like JJ Abram’s Star Trek reboot, The Force Awakens is essentially a well-crafted piece of AU fanfiction. While Abram’s has not altered the canon universe to the same magnitude that he did the Star Trek universe, this is still his world and not the one George Lucas established in 1977. But anyway, if people are interested in my views on this topic, I will be happy to write a full blog about it in the future.
The film itself gets better as it goes on. Daisy Ridley, who plays plucky scavenger Rey, spends the first half of the film acting in a similar manner to Jenna Coleman on Doctor Who, staring intensely at things and then firing off her lines at high speed. However, overall, she portrays a likeable character with a big heart and a natural motivation. It’s also fantastic to have a Star Wars movie with more than one strong female character. Jon Boyega’s Finn on the other hand, starts the film with a troubled conscience before experiencing the world outside the First Order, the movie’s replacement for the Galactic Empire, with an attitude similar to the whale from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy before going on a journey of self-discovery and becoming the rough and ready male hero of the film, nicely complimenting Ridley’s more excitable and driven Rey.
The plot is your classic science-fiction soap opera, filled with beautiful locations, dramatic inter-personal dynamics and some genuinely poignant scenes. Lawrence Kasdan and JJ Abrams have captured the essence of the original Star Wars trilogy in their well-paced, well-balanced script. The action set pieces are visually stunning as well as naturally choreography and packed with the subtle humour of the original films, as opposed the gimmick-y nature of the prequel set pieces.
The film contains enough throwbacks and references to the previous movies to sate returning fanboys and manages to steer clear of Steven Moffat levels of fan service. The returning characters we see in the previews (such as Han Solo and Chewbacca) do not drive the film as no-one asked Abrams to remake the original films and yet are not just a cameo for the sake of making fans squeal.
However, there are a few things I would like to have seen differently. This may drift a little too far into spoiler territory for some people so read ahead with caution:
- Rey’s staff- Rey’s signature look for the film matches a grey desert outfit with a long, two-handed staff. We only really see Rey use this weapon once in the film, which is a shame as the sequence sees her fend off two men using a combination of her staff, kicks, flips and throws. The style is reminiscent of Bojitsu and it would have been cool to have seen more of that during the film.
- Re-establishment of characters- The biggest offender of this is Han Solo as he is caught between two groups who he owes money to, soon after meeting Rey and Finn. While this establishes a neat little action sequence which shows off Rey’s technical abilities and gets our fan-motors running, we don’t need a reintroduction to the fact that Han Solo is a silver-tongued rascal. We don’t need a 101 to one of the franchise’s most iconic characters.
Overall, I enjoyed The Force Awakens. Abrams appears to know what he’s doing and has nailed down the Star Wars formula. While it has not fully rekindled my fanboy fire, I look forward to seeing where he takes his new saga.
NB: I do have more suggested improvements but a lot of them delve deep into spoiler territory and I do wish to return to university in one piece. Have you seen The Force Awakens? What did you think?