As much of a standalone film as a continuation of a saga, Star Wars: The Force Awakens successfully manages to continue the story 30 years on, all the while preserving what made Star Wars the most beloved franchise of all time.
The Force Awakens follows scavenger Rey and ex-stormtrooper Finn during the uprising of The First Order. Aided along the way by some familiar faces, events unfold 30 years after the Galactic Empire’s epic defeat.
JJ Abrams has successfully brought to life some of the best and well known franchises to date. After the hugely successful Star Trek, there was really no other choice when the Star Wars sequels were announced.
The direction of the film is impeccable. Not only does it look fantastic, its immensely authentic, recreating everything in the most minute of detail. The use of practical effects was a smart move, adding a sense of realism that CGI can never truly achieve while also giving a greater depth to individual performances as the actors actually have something to play off of.
The story is incredibly well paced – the action scenes are brilliantly shot and are strategically placed to lift the film as the plot ebs and flows. A special mention here has to go to Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian and Cecep Arid Rahman (The Raid, Raid 2) for excellent choreography during the lightsaber duels – raising expectation for the next instalments fight scenes immeasurably. An interesting use of locations also adds to the production, producing some impressive set pieces that seem apt for what’s happening on the screen.
What sets this out as one of the best Star Wars films is simply the story. With 3 distinct styles, the writing team arguably bring different depths to the story that fits with individual traits. Abrams for instance brings a great aspect of action and story, the skeleton and structure come from franchise veteran Lawrence Kasdan while the emotive scenes come straight from Toy Story and Little Miss Sunshine writer – Michael Arndt. This blend of styles works best with its subtle use of nostalgia, preserving history while telling the next chapter in the cinematic universe.
Although great, the structure of the story seems to mimic ‘A New Hope’ a little more than it should. If you were to compare the two side by side, there are some moments where it does feel like you have seen it before and therefore may split opinion a lot more than intended.
To round off the success of the sequel, its nice to see some decent performances from newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. Boyega is particularly confident in the role and as such, fits in nicely with the more experienced star, Oscar Isaacs. Adam Driver makes for an excellent villain, setting the tone of the First Order with a spirit that is different to previous enemies, Darth Vader and Darth Maul.
We can’t talk about performances however unless we are to mention the people that started it all. All three veterans, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill take on their roles as if they had been playing them their whole lives. Harrison Ford is excellent as the cheeky rogue, Han Solo and Fisher is effervescent as Leia while Hamill is equally as hypnotic as he was 30 years ago. Altogether, they provide an experience that is critical to how successful this film really is.
Overall, review aside, this film was just good old fun – appealing to both the film fan and the small child in me that idolised the originals. With some strong performances, impressive visuals and a decent story, it does well at both preserving the history while paving the way for a new story entirely. Although borrowing a little too much from the very first adventure in 1977, it’s impossible to not come out of this without a smile on your face. 5 out of 5 stars.