At long last, the force had awakened… and it is strong. Before the film’s much-anticipated release, I was one of those people that was never wedded to the idea of Star Wars. Blasphemous I know, but having grown up with the more serious and grounded works of sci-fi like Blade Runner, Alien and Omega Man, Star Wars seemed too childish in comparison and didn’t seem like the kind of thing that should be taken seriously. However, that original trilogy still maintains nostalgic charm, and The Empire Strikes Back is still a fantastic movie to this very day. Plus, even though I wasn’t the hugest of Star Wars fans by far, I was smart enough to know that the much-belated prequel trilogy let the originals down very badly, all thanks to shoddy writing, wooden acting, and being too CGI-heavy. The fact of the matter is George Lucas created Star Wars, and then he destroyed it, but thank the lord for J.J. Abrams, who not only saves the franchise and renews it for a new generation, but also for finally making me fan of this now amazing franchise.
For the first time, I was emotionally invested, and the film managed to be exciting, exhilarating, adventurous, humourous, but also being bold and impactful. But more than anything, this perfectly demonstrates the art of proper filmmaking, with proper storytelling, compelling characterization, amazing spectacle, and dazzling effects work that doesn’t feel like it’s being shoved down your throat. Plus, this is by far the funniest Star Wars movie, and not funny in a bad way like what George Lucas did with the prequels by adding childish annoyances like Jar Jar Binks or little Anakin exclaiming “Yippee!” constantly. The humour in The Force Awakens felt appropriate in all the right story beats, and added to the film’s charm in abundance.
Abrams’ direction was clear and precise, whilst Dan Mindel’s cinematography was gorgeous to behold with each shot looking as though they could belong in an art gallery, down to the way the shots are set up and how they are established. Thankfully, the action sequences are exciting and well-choreographed without it descending into shaky-cam antics, which has become the unfortunate norm for a lot of action movies, but that is not evident here. Everything from the art-design, action sequences, locations and creature designs, all have a physicality to them, which is something that was definitely lacking from Lucas’ CGI-laden prequel trilogy. Here, you do feel as though you are immersed in the landscapes, like as if you are on an actual alien world with these variety of creatures that feel alive, and that’s certainly a major improvement. In fact, the way the film delivers its huge sense of spectacle rivals that of classic movies like Ben-Hur, Zulu or Lawrence of Arabia, because you are simply overwhelmed by the film’s sheer size and scale.
As Finn, John Boyega is an energetic and charismatic screen presence, being the source of most of the film’s humour, whilst also having an element of pathos and tragedy about it, which you discover in his backstory. You can tell that Boyega is having a blast being there, as too is Oscar Isaac, who does give a credible performance as Poe Dameron whilst oozing the cool factor. As the main antagonist, Adam Driver had some big shoes to fill coming in after Darth Vader, but he makes the character of Kylo Ren feel fresh, intimidating and menacing, but also giving him the arrogance and temper of a petulant child as well, making Kylo almost a mixture of both a child and a monster at the same time. Even after all this time, Harrison Ford still nails Han Solo, still maintaining both the charisma and snarky attitude, and the scenes between him, Chewbacca and Carrie Fisher’s Leia felt special.
However, the real, ultimate star of the show is newcomer Daisy Ridley who absolutely excels as the film’s true protagonist Rey. She is the film’s beating heart and soul, giving a phenomenal performance that felt real and believable in each and every scene she’s in, and she’s able to hold her own when acting against acting heavyweights like Harrison Ford, plus her chemistry with Boyega was simply sublime. The character of Rey is brilliantly realised as she’s given real character development, depth and intrigue, but it’s all thanks to Ridley that she’s become arguably one of the most iconic female icons in recent cinema history.
It’s not completely perfect though; because there is so much practical effects the very few CGI characters do stand out, the Starkiller Base itself was ultimately unimpressive when compared to the Death Star, and despite giving a credible performance, Dohmnall Gleeson was unintimidating as General Hux. However, these very astute minor niggles that are awash in a sea of positives. It rejuvenated the franchise in a bold new way, respecting the mythology that has come before, yet still keeping it fresh and exciting. It was thrilling, engaging, emotional, dramatic and surprisingly funny, and that is all down to how well Abrams pulled it off. It is going to be weird moving forward without him, but with Rian Johnson at the helm, the franchise will no doubt be in safe hands. In the end, Star Wars: The Force Awakens fully captured my imagination, converting a sceptic like me into a fully-fledged fan of the series, and finally made me be one with the force.
Dir: J.J. Abrams
Scr: J.J. Abrmas, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Dohmnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow
Prd: J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Bryan Burk
DOP: Dan Mindel
Music: John Williams
Run time: 136 mins
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out on DVD and blu-ray on April 18th.