There are very few words in any language that can describe how happy I am to finally be able to say I’ve seen this film, and have the ability to write it. Today was one of the most anticipated days of my life, and even though I was only officially a member of the Star Wars fandom a few weeks ago, I was blown away by the saga, and the prospect of a continuation of these wonderful films had me on the edge of my proverbial seat. I was terrified that this continuation of the original trilogy would be bad, or mediocre, and the sub-standard prequel trilogy didn’t do well to assuage my fears. However, I won’t keep you in suspense any longer…
…Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. That isn’t just excitement from the return of the greatest science fiction franchise in history, nor is it my rabid fan-boy proclamation – it is absolutely true. This film is a splendid addition to the franchise that allows the fans to have a brilliant continuation to the saga, and also to allow the science fiction genre to have a fantastic new addition. In an age where sequels and reboots are incredibly popular, The Force Awakens manage to be faithful to the original films, but also stand as a great film, all on its own. I certainly believe that we could not have gotten a better film, and considering that this film has had every science fiction fan on edge since its announcement, it is certainly the film that fans wanted and deserved.
The weakest aspect of the prequel trilogy was that is was almost purely visual. The entire trilogy was carried on the shoulders of Ewan McGregor, which is uncharacteristic of the original trilogy, which was both visually stunning and filled with great performances, most notably by a trio of obscure actors. It goes without saying that The Force Awakens is similar to the original trilogy, as it uses its actors, both well-known and unknown, to great effect. As much as one tries, it is impossible to find a single weak performance in The Force Awakens, and it proves to not only be an effective science fiction film, but a powerful piece of character work as well. I am well aware as to how privileged I am to have been one of a select few to see this quite early, a few days before the wide release, and I myself avoided spoilers like the plague. However, I feel that I do need to discuss some aspects of this film, and through that I need to reveal some major plot details. So at this point, it is time for a “choose your own adventure” kind of review – if you have seen this film, or you don’t mind spoilers, continue reading. If you wish not to have spoilers and major plot details revealed, stop reading here. If you need motivation to see this film, you can find it above in my above statements, which I suggest is all you need in preparation for this film. It is a great film, so I highly suggest anyone who hasn’t seen it goes to see it as soon as possible.
A compelling villain was the exact reason the original trilogy has become so brilliant, iconic and downright entertaining, and the absence of a truly compelling villain in the prequel trilogy might be the reason behind its disappointing response. Kylo Ren, the newest villain, is on par with Darth Vader, and being similar, both in motivation and in appearance, he is a great successor to the role of ultimate villain. However, through only this film, he is already a far more complex villain than Darth Vader. That is because right from the outset, we discover that his real name is Ben Solo – and he is the son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and that he was trained by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to be a Jedi, but turned to the Dark Side. This frames him as a complex villain, and the beautiful part is that there are no overly long backstories or explanations for his character – we learn bits and pieces of his story throughout the film, all leading up to the heart-pounding confrontation between Kylo Ren and Han Solo, where, I am afraid to announce, he kills Solo, causing the entire audience in my cinema to gasp, as it was truly a shocking moment, and perhaps on par with the legendary relevation in The Empire Strikes Back. Driver shows considerable restraint with the character, and I can definitely see the character bypassing Darth Vader in terms of being a truly despicable but endearing villain, and Driver is absolutely perfect for the role, and this will undoubtedly launch him into super-stardom.
Talking of launching into super-stardom, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are given the breakout hit to end all of them. There are very few better ways to break into mainstream cinema than playing the lead roles in a Star Wars film. John Boyega was very good, but I found him somewhat wooden, and felt his performance could’ve had a bit more behind it, but I am almost certain his performance will improve. The runaway success of this film has to be Daisy Ridley, who is absolutely transcendent and wonderful as Rey, the ambiguous and crafty scavenger that drives this film. Ridley has such effortless charm, and she shows clear shades of the kind of performance that gave Carrie Fisher her breakthrough in the original film. Ridley has been getting great reviews for her performance here, and this one is not an exception – she is fantastic and definitely the best in the cast. Oscar Isaac, who is not an obscure actor by any means, but not quite yet a household name, is given a character that is clearly borne from the same wise-cracking, arrogant oddball that Han Solo came from. His character, Poe Dameron, is hilarious, deadpan and a great deal of fun. J.J. Abrams made an interesting decision to open the film with Isaac’s character, implying that he is the main character, only to seemingly kill him off a few minutes later and then have him come back for the final fight, which I thought was such a fantastic decision, and made this film even more unconventional.
Of course, Harrison Ford was the best of the entire cast in the original trilogy, and he clearly has not lost that charm. In The Force Awakens, he is equally as sarcastic, wise-cracking and wonderful as he was thirty years ago, and Han Solo is still possibly the greatest Star Wars character of all time. Of course, this served as both the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the saga, but also a farewell to Han Solo, as he is killed in a shocking twist near the middle of the film by his own son, which is a heartbreaking and tangibly emotional moment that left the entire audience feeling truly upset. Many characters have died in the Star Wars films, but somehow, Han Solo’s death is perhaps the most powerful and depressing.
Carrie Fisher is wonderful, and her character of Leia has matured wonderfully, going from being the femme fatale (but the pretty awesome one) of the original trilogy, to the wise and powerful general in the sequel trilogy. She doesn’t do a vast amount, but considering that most of the focus of The Force Awakens was set around Han Solo, it is pretty clear that she will have a far bigger role to play in the upcoming sequels. I so badly want to write that Mark Hamill is amazing in this, but alas, he only shows up in the epic final scene of the film, and he looks fantastic. He has made the transition from young, naive hero to the older, respectable and wise master (a fun piece of trivia – at the time of filming, Hamill was 63, which was the exact same age as Alec Guinness, who played his mentor in A New Hope). His performance was truly very short, and with no dialogue, it is very limited – but it assures us that he will be playing a massive role in the next films, and that is the most exciting part about the final moment of this film, cliff-hanger aside.
Once again, I will reiterate that Star Wars always looks magnificent. J.J. Abrams is a man with a clear vision – to make a faithful film to the original trilogy. He utilizes intricate and revolutionary filmmaking techniques to ensure that this film is as futuristic and visually appealing as the previous films. However, he does ensure that a reliance on green-screen and CGI is avoided, and this film thankfully never reaches into Avatar-levels of technological advancement, because the Star Wars universe is far better and deserves so much more than the computer game that was Avatar. The CGI in this film was gorgeous and truly very realistic, and the motion capture performance by Lupita Nyong’o was wonderful and some of the best motion-capture rendered imagery I’ve seen yet. There is little doubt that this film made use of every corner of cinematic technological advancement, and as a result, it looks gorgeous, and is a far-cry from the cold and dreary look of the prequel trilogy, and far closer to the warm and riveting design and look of the original trilogy, one of the defining features of the saga.
I loved this film. I love the way it continues the original saga faithfully, I love how it grabs one’s attention and never lets it go, and I love how it keeps one on the edge of their seat. I also really liked how it had overarching themes from the previous films, but did not require the viewer to have an intimate and active knowledge of the previous films – having a vague outline of the original trilogy is certainly useful, but it is accessible, and thus everyone – hardcore fans to neophytes – will enjoy it unconditionally. I would rank this in the top three of the Star Wars films, and it is certainly far better than the prequel trilogy. I am very sure that the following two sequels to this will be absolutely wonderful, and I am personally ecstatic that Star Wars is back, and it is here to stay…for the next few years at least. J.J. Abrams did a fantastic job of bringing this epic saga back to life, and I have to give kudos to George Lucas, for handing over the torch to his iconic creations, and his faith allowed for a fantastic film that remains one of the best of the year, and one of the best of the series. I can’t wait to see what’s next, but if this film has anything to say about it, we are in for a few years of brilliance.