What does Star Wars mean to you? Anything? Everything? Nothing? For me, it certainly means a great deal. Growing up, The Star Wars Saga was a collection of stories that I often revisited. I love all six films (despite the many flaws found in the Prequels) And couldn’t bring myself to hate any one of them. There was a lot riding on the latest entry in the franchise, The Force Awakens. It was without a doubt the most anticipated movie of the year, and fans expectations were through the roof. Did the film live up to expectations? Or was it a huge letdown? Everyone you ask is going to have a slightly different answer, but read on if you want to hear my thoughts. Also, fair warning, This review WILL contain Spoilers.
Star Wars has always taken familiar stories and re-imagined them into something new. When George Lucas wrote the first Star Wars, the story borrowed many aspects from films and shows he had grown up with. J.J Abrams does something similar with the Force Awakens, as the film borrows heavily from A New Hope in terms of it’s story and how it plays out. At first glance, this seemed like a flaw to me, because the film seemed overly familiar. However, upon seeing the film a few more times, I discovered something important that I had somehow missed in my first viewing. The film may be similar to A New Hope in many ways, but it definitely has it’s own voice. It feels like it’s own thing, while still respectfully paying tribute to the original three Star Wars films visually and narratively. It admittedly plays things a little too safe at times, but since this film is meant to be a re-introduction to the Star Wars universe, I can’t really fault Disney for choosing to make a familiar sure-fire crowd pleaser as their first outing, rather then try something risky and new. The Force Awakens has a lot more humour, and while opinions on this choice will vary among fans, I enjoyed the more light-hearted nature of this story. It had a bit of a Guardians of the Galaxy vibe (but not overly so) and the jokes were written and timed well. The action scenes aren’t as impressive or memorable here as they were in the previous films (though it is especially awesome to see the Millennium Falcon back in action), but the character interactions and development have been greatly improved this time around.
Part of what makes the film so enjoyable is it’s cast of characters. It’s wonderful to see old favourite return like Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, C-3PO and R2-D2 (My two personal favourites) but it’s the new characters that really carry the film. Finn and Rey in particular are very interesting. Finn’s conflict is something we haven’t seen in a Star Wars movie before. He’s a Stormtrooper with a conscience, and this is shown brilliantly within the opening sequence of the film. Without the use of any dialogue, you’re able to tell exactly what Finn’s character is all about just by seeing his actions and reactions to the chaotic opening sequence of the movie. Rey’s character is also given a dialogue-free introduction, and it’s handled extremely well. Like Finn, we get to know her character very quickly thanks to clear and clever introductory sequence that harkens back to Luke Skywalker’s character arc in A New Hope. The film’s lead villain, Kylo Ren, is one of the most interesting Star Wars villains we’ve had in a long time. He’s not a mute bad-ass like Darth Maul, or a calm and wise villain like Darth Vader, but rather a complex and immature individual that’s being torn apart as he struggles to find his place in the dark side. He’s the kind of villain that you feel sorry for, but can also be very intimidating and unpredictable when he wants to be. As I mentioned earlier, seeing the return of the classic characters is as thrilling as you might expect, with Harrison Ford’s performance as Han Solo being the highlight. Luke Skywalker’s role in the film was unexpected, but powerful, and i applaud Disney and the crew for showing so much restraint with his character.
One of the most memorable new characters of the film is the Droid, BB-8. Behaving like a beach-ball version of R2-D2, the little droid has plenty of screen time and is actually quite important to the plot. He does admittedly become less important as the film goes on (he’s barely in the third act) but he’s still a fun new addition to the cast, and it’s great to see him interact with C-3PO and R2-D2. Unfortunately, some of the characters that seem really interesting aren’t given much screen time. There’s Poe, a Rebel X-Wing pilot that gets a few good laughs, but is ultimately not in the film for very long. the biggest offender of a lack of development and screen time though is Captain Phasma, the chrome captain of the Stormtroopers. The marketing leading up to this film heavily featured Phasma, but her character does practically nothing in the movie itself, and it’s really a shame, because her character design looks so good, and her character has real potential to be interesting. Here’s hoping we see more of her in Episode 8.
Speaking of Stormtroopers, they’re given a sleek and imposing new design, Despite the fact that quite a few scenes featuring them are played for laughs. Stormtroopers are almost always the butt of jokes amongst Star Wars fans, so seeing them be portrayed in a slightly comedic light felt oddly meta. I still prefer the classic Stormtrooper designs overall, but these new designs are certainly a welcome addition to the series. I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about the old-school approach to the film’s visual effects, and while there is a good amount of CGI used, mostly in the aerial action scenes, the film’s uses practical sets, costumes and props for most of it’s characters and settings, and the film as a result looks amazing. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy the Prequels, but seeing the franchise return to it’s home-made style roots with the special effects was nothing short of wonderful. The film makes use of CGI sparingly but appropriately, mostly to enhance certain sequences and locations, but also for scenes that would be too difficult to achieve otherwise. You can’t talk about A Star Wars movie without discussing the music, and The Force Awakens has a good soundtrack, but it’s not quite as grand as some of Composer John Williams previous work on the franchise. It’s an enjoyable score with some memorable cues, just Don’t expect to find a track as epic as 1999’s “Duel of the fates” here.
Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens the best Star Wars yet? I wouldn’t go that far. Is it one of the most enjoyable and entertaining films of 2015 though? Without question! The film is not without it’s flaws; but the positives really do outweigh the negatives. i’d recommend this movie to just about anyone with an interest in the Star Wars saga, but chances are you’ve probably already seen it by now. If by some odd and unlikely chance you’ve not gone out to see The Force Awakens, I can assure you that it’s worth the price of admission to see it in the theatre, because a movie this gigantic deserves to be enjoyed on the big screen.