Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Spoiler-Free Review

A triumphant return to form for the franchise that lost its way with the Lucas directed prequel series. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are phenomenal leads that will drive the franchise forward in Episode VIII and Episode IX.

The cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars, from its 1977 inception to the present day, has created one of the most impressively thought through fictional universes. Sprouting books, games, and comics, Star Wars has been transformed from a film starring a cast of (at the time) nobodies to one of the worlds most famous and successful film franchises, sitting at the foremost pinnacle of cultural successes along with the more recent Harry Potter series, and The Lord of the Rings. The JJ Abrams directed Episode VII is a triumphant return to form mixing the characters, action, and gags the franchise is famous for in that galaxy far far away…

Once the overwhelming sense of emotion subsides and the crawl begins, the film launches us back into the universe in the way that each of the original trilogy managed so well. Within minutes we are introduced to a Stormtrooper’s (John Boyega) moral dilemma within killing, the new face of the dark side, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), as well as Poe and BB-8 – the Resistance’s poster boy and his lovable droid.

The story feels familiar, in many ways it beats the same drum as Episode IV, but this is certainly no complaint, it gave us a good introduction to our new heroes, the new foes, and made us feel the way Han felt when he says ‘Chewie, we’re home’.

In many ways a completely original story would have taken the film into its own league, but while this certainly features elements of Episode IV, it is original enough that it feels more like a gentle nostalgic nod rather than a direct copy. It is this nostalgia that had the audiences whooping, cheering, and laughing like no other film has managed, which is where many of its successes lie. If Abrams intended on gaining this reaction, then he sure did succeed.

The films weaknesses lie in its inability to control timing, more than once in the film the camera lingers awkwardly too long, most notably in the scene between Rey and Kylo Ren that reintroduces us to force-driven mind control. The camera pans between the dueling enemies a little too much relieving the scene of any tension created and making the whole thing seem a bit trivial. Again in a Han, Leia scene the swirling camera lasts longer than necessary making the emotion seem forced, however this is a trademark weakness of Abrams’ tales featuring in both Lost and the Star Trek franchises also.

Timing and pacing becomes an issue in part in the action too. In this case the camera doesn’t linger long enough meaning that some plot points are swiftly mulled over before we are launched back into the action. While the story was built well, and the action sequences were some of the best the franchise has had to offer, a slow pace in part could have helped us to better understand character motivations and create a greater sense of emotion. This is possibly a weakness in its script rather than the cinematography, but more emotion could have been created in lingering on important plot points with more dialogue.

The successes of the film however outweigh its weaknesses. Triumphantly through the film a strong, female lead is created in Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is just beginning to find her ways in the force. Fin, (John Boyega) fills those over-sized Han Solo boots in becoming the more skeptical character personifying the role of the audience, and boy does he fit them well! The two British leads are phenomenal and should really drive the trilogy forward in the latter films with their interesting and unique characters.

The old cast are magnificent too. For Harrison Ford this is no cameo, and while Carrie Fisher features less, her screen time is well thought through and relevant. The skepticism surrounding the return of the old-guard was undeserved; Abrams has used them effectively to propel the story forward, while still harking back to the original series like a nostalgic hug.

Abrams has cemented himself as the overseer of the franchise, while he is not directing the subsequent episodes, it falls on his shoulders to ensure the films appease the fans that have waited so long for their follow ups to Return of the Jedi. This is possibly the funniest, action packed, and best looking Star Wars yet. While it by no means bests the masterpiece that is The Empire Strikes Back, it does well to drive audiences old and new into the universe once more and sets a story that is already making fans world wide want more.

So far so good JJ; the pressure is on my friend.

8.5/10

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