Movie Review: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
As much as I exaggerrate on a regular basis, I don’t think I would be that far off base, if I said that ‘Star Wars‘ is the largest and most iconic film franchise in cinematic history. Yes, really. It’s become the cornerstone of childhood memories for many, while spawning unforgettable experiences and even a life long dedication for fans everywhere.
Now, after 10 years since the last movie, a new one continues the story that was last seen 32 years ago, with a movie that may not have been perfect, but the manner with which it is is presented, to audiences new and old alike, is nothing short of perfection.
So here’s my Spoiler-free movie review of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘. I’ll try to be as un-biased as possible and limit my uses of the words ‘awesome’, ‘epic’, and ‘goddamn!’. No promises though.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ sees Rey, (Daisy Ridley) a scavenger abandoned on a dessert planet as an orphan, scrounging by while she awaits someone’s return. The adventure starts when Rey finds a lost droid, stumbles onto a fugitive (John Boyega), and gets entangled on the wrong side of a galactic war, the orgins of which may just lead to her own past, and possibly future. Kind of. Maybe.
Very loosely continuing the story from ‘Star Wars: Episode VII – Return Of The Jedi‘, (only in the sense that some of those same characters are present here) this ‘Star Wars‘ movie tells a story using characters from the previous trilogies, in a somewhat familiar manner. The story blends the original characters, while introducing new ones, who, quite honestly, steal the show.
A former soldier of the dangerous First Order, Finn (Boyega) finds himself on the run, desperate to distance himself from his previous life, until he runs into Rey, and inadvertantly becomes a part of something a lot larger. During his escape, Finn meets Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) a hot shot resistance pilot, captured by Kylo Ren, (Adam Driver) a seemingly new student of the Dark Side, who interrogates Poe for a secret that can tip the balance of power in this new galaxy. Each of these new characters bears the architectural blueprints of beloved characters of the original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy, but are distinctly different, and the story allows them to grow into their own, bringing more depth to the population of this franchice, as well as invoking a familiar sense of nostalgia.
‘The Force Awakens‘ can be seen more as an adapted sequel, in the sense that the story by Lawrence Kasdan (‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back‘) and J. J. Abrams (‘Fringe‘) builds a new universe on top of the old, by telling a story with new characters and overlapping them with where the classic ones intersect in this new world. This works wonderfully as it is able to propel the mythos of the story forward for a new generational audience, while creating back stories for the older characters, filling in their paths between ‘Episode VI‘ and this film.
The story itself, works similarly to the original ‘Star Wars‘. A new hope is revealed, an evil force in the galaxy is introduced with the unstable Kylo Ren as its face, as a more looming threat lurks in the background, pulling strings. The story’s not perfect. It definitely raises more questions than it answers. I personally feel that ‘The Force Awakens‘ should’ve stood as a standalone adventure, rather than leave doors open that we have to walk through in subsequent films. While the original ‘Star Wars‘ movie conclusively told a whole story, within that episode, which was later expanded into the Trilogy, ‘The Force Awakens‘ seems to have intentionally left a lot to be unfolded in future films, which can easily make some people feel cheated. While it’s a smart business move to reboot a franchise in the form of a sequel/remake that follows very closely to the original, with the very similar plot beats, it may have (and actually has) come off as repetitive and redundant for audiences who were expecting something more… unique.
However, despite that, the film delivers on its promise of bringing ‘Star Wars‘ into a new era of storytelling that revels in its nostalgia. Director J. J. Abrams’ love of the legacy is apparent as he stays true to the essence of the existing universe, while modernizing elements that are very dated to the time of the story’s inception. Most importantly of all, the movie is fun. It is enjoyable and it exploits every aspect of the cinema going experience, without resorting to gratuitiously cheap thrills or superflous film tropes. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ provides heart, humour, and homages the original in as much of a throwback, as it improves upon the original.
Daisy Ridley is beyond awesome (I’m allowed one!) and her wild eyed excitement as Rey almost mirror’s the audience’s own. And I’m not even qualified to be able to describe the larger, real life impact of having one of the heroes of a ‘Star Wars‘ movie be a girl, one that is incredibly powerful, resourceful and is in many ways relateable to an audience that has been largely ignored by major motion picture studios. John Boyega as Finn is tortured and fragile in his reluctance to step up to do his part in the story. While the most intriguing back story (in my opinion) has to be Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, whose past is something I am desperate to find out more about! The actor plays the villain very uniquely than what we have seen before; volatile, unstable and extremely intimidating, which is quite the feat for the actor who otherwise has been mostly involved with comedic work.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is successful in terms of revitalizing the series decades after the original and invoking ravenous engagement from its fans. The movie is able to create excitement, not just for this film, but for what is more to come, without resorting to cliff hanger endings (well, not really) or unresolved storylines. The film introduces a new chapter of the Star Wars legacy to a new generation of fans, and does so with as much flair, impact and overwhelming feeling of anticipation, as much as, if not more so than ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’ managed to do when it was originally released.