Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (d. J. J. Abrams USA 2015)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.

Ratings

Entertainment:

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Performances:

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Predictability:

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Technical:

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Yes, this is the new Star Wars film. If any of you were like me this was a film to be excited about and I’m willing to bet that it doesn’t really need much introduction. Star Wars (d. George Lucas USA 1977) started something huge. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (d. Irvin Kershner USA 1980) and Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi (d. Richard Marquand USA 1983) solidified Star Wars as one of the big stories of our age. (Honestly, how many films/books or similar can claim to have started (mock) religions?) Star Wars is huge. Sufficed to say that Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (d. Lucas USA 1999), Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (d. Lucas USA 2002) and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (d. Lucas USA 2005) could not live up to the hype. (Yeah, I’m putting it lightly but so much has been written on tearing these films apart it feels silly to go into it in detail here). This left Star Wars in an interesting position where it was still big, nothing could destroy what it was but another Star Wars film felt uncertain. Disney took over. Everyone was anxious about what would happen next. Can Star Wars ever give more films like the original trilogy or was it doomed completely? This is one of the biggest film franchises in existence. People feel so passionately about Star Wars. This must have been a hard film to make.

In Star Wars there have been many deliberate echoes of previous films and this could be for a number of reasons (Star Wars Ring Theory is definitely worth a look!) So should we be surprised or should we criticise a film to pay such a loving homage to previous films that is both canonical with previous films and their themes and is also endearing. This does mean the film is pretty predictable but it does serve some sort of function. Hard to criticise but it may be a factor in enjoying the film, particularly if you hate spoilers. However, one of Star Wars’ greatest strengths is the characters, the visuals and the concepts. The Universe is so huge that it is impossible not to get so enthused about it. I find it hard to know what to think of the spherical based droid or some aliens like the tentacle monsters, that are unlike anything previously in Star Wars but can also add to the entire universe. On the other hand the depiction of planets and destroyed starships and space is done so well it is so epic and welcoming. Characters both old and new are quick to enthuse that I could go on about them forever. Finding some of the old beloved characters back in Star Wars is such a glorious sight that almost instantly makes the film.

Looking a little closer at some of the new characters we can see some bold moves in the lead female Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the lead male Finn (John Boyega) (perhaps double protagonists?) that it is almost embarrassing to see the backlash (honestly, are we still so backward?). They are simply stunning and make for some truly inspiring characters. I personally found that some of Finn’s wisecracks came close to annoying at times but this is never focused upon too much. They function so well in the film and quickly take on the reigns with some decent chemistry to make their trials and tribulations interesting. My one central criticism however lies with the antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). This isn’t actually in performance but in character. In explaining his back story and also giving him moments of anger and frustration he looses all menace and quickly becomes like a stroppy teenager. (Really? Kylo Ren is going to slash apart control panels?) This is an unfortunate move but fortunately a relatively minor problem. He does pose some threat, even if it is somewhat undermined, and the interaction he has with the other characters works well to keep you entertained.

All in all, this is a strong film and very entertaining. The visuals are strong and the characters interesting enough to want to bring you back. The echoes of previous films are very strong but this may be to serve a particular function and doesn’t take too much from the film itself. My criticisms of the antagonist just goes to show that the he’s not really a villain but a character. It will be interesting to see where they go next, they’ve touched upon some interesting points that have been left open and therefore leads us to the next film. I will be very excited about Star Wars: Episode VIII – What’s Next?

Synopsis

30 Years after Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker has gone missing. A map leading to his whereabouts has been found by a resistance pilot and been sent away in a droid. Though the Empire was dissolved the First Order has taken its place and also looks to find this map before some unlikely heroes discover the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker.

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official Site

Interview with J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan

Interview with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega

Interview with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher

Some things to know about Force Awakens

Ideas that were dropped from Force Awakens

Star Wars Ring Theory

How Disney bought Star Wars

Star Wars Morals

Star Wars Good Changes

Some Good things about the Prequel Trilogy

Some Hidden Facts



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