Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Directed by: JJ Abrams
Written by: JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
Starring: Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Gwendoline Christie, Harrison Ford, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac
As that “final” scene aired (and believe me it will enter into Star Wars lore) and the end credits rolled with JJ Abrams replacing the name George Lucas under the Directed By, The lights of the cinema went up and all I can hear around me was the sound of instant clapping and cheers of whoop whoop, apart from one sole voice who sat a few seats back, who muttered “Well that was shit!”.
And that is the problem JJ Abrams has with Star Wars. The fan base is so huge that its not really a film, but an event, an iconic pop culture that had fans young and old queuing in the early hours of this morning. I was shocked to see children as young as 10 waiting with their Dads, knowing full well that they should be tucked up in bed ready for school in the morning, but you know what? Who cares! Where I sat, I kept on glancing back through out the running time of this much anticipated film to take a look at the young lads reaction when the film was playing and it was a joy to see. Totally ignoring the fact that we all must be stupid to be sitting in the cinema at that time, the young lad had a face full of joy and excitement and clutched his dads hand through out the daring space battles. You ask him in thirty years time about his cherished memories and no doubt one of his answers will be “When my Dad took me to see the new Star Wars film when I was a kid!”and that is the power of this franchise even though that sole disgruntled fan sitting further back goes to show that to keep every fan happy is near impossible. There always be one who will hate any new film or attempt to bring something new to the franchise, and I would have loved to have asked him exactly what he thought was wrong with Episode 7, especially as the memories of the much hated prequels still linger in the air.
I mean let be honest! When was the last time you sat in the cinema and had a chill all through your body. A realisation that you watching something “special”. I had one moment during this and its not far from a scene we saw in the trailer. Believe me, this review will not contain any major spoilers for The Force Awakens, so if you looking to find out about Luke? Who is Kylo Ren? and any of the big twists, then read another review! This will be as much spoiler free as possible, because you deserve it, I mean like me you have waited 32 years for this moment.
That scene that gave me that unexpected chill was the moment Rey (Daisy Ridley) asked the returning Harrison Ford was he really Han Solo, and he turned to face her with Chewbacca at his side and for that brief moment I was like that young lad sitting behind me, I actually felt 10 years old again. Don’t be ashamed if you somehow get the same feeling because just seeing a brand new scene with Han and Chewie makes The Force Awakens worth every second and you be stunned at just how much you have missed them and how their lack of presence in the prequels contributed to that set of films downfall.
Joss Wheldon said that any new films should not have the old characters but just seeing the likes of Carrie Fisher and Ford is just….well……it made my eyes swell with tears of joy and for one Joss, you were wrong. This is the Star Wars we all wanted way back when those furry Ewoks were dancing at the end of Return Of The Jedi. Don’t get me wrong, The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, and has some issues that I found deeply frustrating at times, but believe the hype surrounding this, JJ has delivered big time here.
Even from the off you sense that they have got this right. The opening Scroll of The Phantom Menace bored me even before the film itself but here with the opening words Luke Skywalker is missing staring back at you, they have the hook the viewer needs. Not since 1983 are Star Wars fans in unknown waters. We all knew what the prequels were about! As soon as Qui -Gon Jinn met the young boy Anakin Skywalker, we knew the path it was heading. Yes Lucas filled the rest of the story with little added material, but it always felt unnecessary, I mean did we really need to know and care that the boy who would became the most fearful bad guy in the galaxy built the loveable C3P0? Just writing that makes me once again just how bad Lucas got those set of films wrong.
But while we have the hook, the beginning also shows just what the fundamental problem is with The Force Awakens. The opening shot is similar to that of A New Hope and by the time a character puts a message in a droid, you get that JJ and Disney are playing it safe here. Despite the feelings of joy, you can not help but feel what we getting is a sort of semi remake/reboot and not the next chapter in the franchise. You can’t blame those behind the cameras in doing it this way, the prequels damaged the franchise by hurting the fan base and this approach will surely get the fans back on board, but there are many scenes that are just too familiar to what we know and love. Its not quite the level of Singer’s Superman Returns love letter to Donner, but it becomes damn close at times, even the twists that occur lose the heartfelt required response because you can see them coming, especially as some of the dialogue mirrors that of old and gives away vital plot moments, long before the scene plays out.
But there is also many things JJ gets right as well. The perfect example is that of BB8. the new droid that plays such a pivotal role in proceedings here. While The Phantom Menace was introducing Jar Jar Binks to the world, much to the disgust of every fan out there, this loveable little creation is a perfect addition to the cast and feels like a much required and loveable part of the C3P0 and R2D2 trio. Expect it to be added to every Christmas list by the end of the weekend.
The brand new young cast are brilliant. The chemistry between them all is electrifying and you can tell that they are all having a blast in their roles. When we first meet Rey sliding down the sand in makeshift sled, you see a loner and a young woman who has not yet found her destiny in life. By the time circumstances and events makes her team up with BB8 and and on the run First Solider Finn (the quite brilliant John Boyega) you see that the franchise is in safe hands. The fact the trio carry the first hour of the film on their shoulders without you asking “Where is the old guard” is a huge credit to them and made the spine tingling scene “Its garbage” (You’ll understand) even more special and worth the wait.
Daisy in particular grows into the role as the film progresses. I was unsure at first of where we were heading with this character but by the time we get to the full scale battle, you will see that the scope is there and its a very thought out character arc.
More so is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who is obsessed with finishing off Darth Vader’s work. As one Yoda like character states “First there was the Sith, then the Empire and now the First Order” and I am happy to say that Driver does the impossible and make you forget about the big bad Vader. His rasping tone and use of the force is brilliant added by the fact he carries a “burden” that will you leave you thinking “Ooooh that is interesting!”, when its revelaed. Less said about Andy Serkis shadowy villain who at this moment comes across like a poor version of Potter’s Voldemort, but let hope he grows as the sequels progress.
Ford effortlessly fits back into the role of Han Solo, still delivering the same old wisecracks and does a much better job returning to this iconic role than he did with that awful Indy return. While Fisher herself triumphantly returns as Leia -with a new haircut- while as for Luke? Missing from the trailers and the posters? When you see what they have done, believe me, it does not disappoint. Clever clever JJ….clever clever indeed.
There are exhilarating space battles, some wonderful witty gags and some splendid action scenes, which makes Star Wars: The Force Awakens everything you wanted and more. Its not perfect for reasons I explained but as it mirrors itself so much on the original trilogy then how can you not love it. Judging it by the prequels then its a Sci-Fi masterpiece, for me personally it fits just behind Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope in the quality stakes and that is the highest praise indeed.
A famous quote from a fan regarding the last set of films was that “Lucas had raped his childhood“. Such a strong set of words. Here is hoping that the same fan will see this and say “JJ has reinvented his childhood” especially as that “final scene” will make you scream out and wish that the next film would be out tomorrow.
Now that JJ has managed to re-establish the plot with the same faces and a new set of characters, lets hope the follow on will become even bigger and better with it now being free of the pressure of seeing if Star Wars can still work and do its job.
Over to you Colin Trevorrow!