Blimey o’Riley! For my first film review you’d have thought I would have picked something a little less conspicuous! Y’know, just a small independent film to ease me into this film reviewing malarkey. Nevertheless, this is the first film I have seen since I started Film Fluff, so here goes…
Firstly, I should say that this review contains no specific details about the plot. The film-makers should be commended for their efforts in keeping the story a closely-guarded secret and I wouldn’t want to give away any details away that may be classed as spoilers.
I cannot begin to imagine how much pressure director JJ Abrams had on his shoulders when making the latest entry into what is arguably the greatest and most revered film franchise of all time. He doesn’t pick easy projects, does he? He was a brave man to reboot Star Trek (with aplomb I might add, but let’s stop at Into Darkness) and then he accepts the challenge off making Episode VII?! He must be a great believer in the phrase “fortune favours the brave”…
…and he hasn’t disappointed. Rest assured, Star Wars fans, as Mr Abrams has done an exemplary job.
Lets start with the new cast. Daisy Ridley (the scavenger, Rey), John Boyega (the rebellious Stormtrooper, Finn), Oscar Isaac (the courageous X-Wing fighter pilot, Poe Dameron) and Adam Driver (the villainous Kylo Ren) all impress when they could have easily been over-shadowed by the cast of Episodes IV, V and VI. This in part is down to how well their individual parts are written. The storylines for Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren have a clear arc and they are not just there to make up the numbers whilst the likes of Han Solo and Chewbacca do their thing. In fact, whilst the Han and Chewie scenes are very enjoyable, they never steal the limelight from the new cast. The new stars also impress because, putting it simply, they can act. You laugh with them, cry with them, feel their pain, their joy, their anger. They are an absolute pleasure to watch and they keep you gripped to the edge of your seat as the story unfolds. Also, the Star Wars veterans never feel like they have been shoe-horned into the plot just to appease the existing fan base. They are there for a very clear reason and that is to help in the telling of the story. The mix of the old and new cast work in cohesion to create a worthy entry into the Star Wars saga.
Abrams and his team should also be applauded for their use of visual effects. Star Wars will always come with an abundance of CGI but in The Force Awakens it is used only when necessary and not splashed all over every single frame like in the prequels. The dog fights are fast-paced and exciting yet it is not a mess of computer generated guff. You can actually see what is happening and the action is easy to follow. They have also used practical creature effects to bring most of the non-human characters to life, and how welcome these effects are too, as they make the alien characters feel like they actually exist in the real world and are not just rendered polygons covering a void of space that the human actors are staring blankly into. They have texture and weight and a physical presence on screen, which gives them a realism that helps with your immersion into a story steeped deeply into science fiction fantasy, which is by no means an easy feat.
The story is classic Star Wars: Good vs Evil; the Dark Side vs the Light; epic space battles; lightsabre duels; droids on a mission; twists and turns; it’s all in there. It has its comedic moments that never fail to land and I was surprised to find my heart racing during the final half hour or so, and this wasn’t because of the exhilarating action scenes but because of where the plot was heading. As strange as this will read, this actually feels like a Star Wars film, and not an expensive toy advert that the prequels turned out to be. This is down to how well the cast play their parts and also how well their individual scenes are written. Out of this, however, comes my one criticism of the film. The Force Awakens has very similar story beats to particular Stars Wars entries of old, and this is a slight concern. Whilst everyone wants more Star Wars, we don’t want the same plot we’ve seen in previous episodes rehashed with a lick of paint and new characters. If the studio isn’t going to do anything new with the franchise then they shouldn’t be making the films. There are also a few plot holes that appear to have been ignored in order for them to progress with the story they wanted to tell that could have easily been rectified at the script writing stage. It will be interesting to see where Episode VIII takes us and, hopefully, it will assuage the tiny alarm bell that is ringing in my head at the moment.
All in all though, The Force Awakens is a success. Star Wars fans and Mr Abrams can now breathe a sigh of relief.