Review: Star Wars – Force Awakens (2D)

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Oh boy. Dear reader, you are probably chomping at the bit to know what I think of the newest, Disney-funded installment of Hollywood’s best blockbuster franchise. But you are also likely not wanting too many spoilers… so I will give you a short opinion and rating now, and you can stop reading further.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an action packed love letter to A New Hope, it is vastly, vastly enjoyable and I highly recommend you go and see it on the big screen. It has truckloads of chemistry between characters, the visual effects are real and tactile and gorgeous, there’s a good sense of fun and creativity with every scene that makes for memorable moments. It has a real darkness too, 12A rating indeed.
Are there issues? There are some, it is a little over-stuffed with action and there are a little too many parallels with A New Hope to be a perfect continuation of the narrative.

But, it is a great, enjoyable action science fiction film and a very good entry in the series! But most importantly, it beats the stuffing out of The Prequels and pounds what’s left into the ground.

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Now, stop reading, lest you want any sort of spoilers. I have, I believe, not spoiled anything but fans can be very touchy!

Set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the film follows two young protagonists, Rey and Finn, who find themselves wrapped into a deadly chase between the First Order (the powerful remnants of the evil Empire) and the Resistance, as both powers search for the location of The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has an incredibly difficult task ahead of it. Not only is it a new entry to the biggest franchise Hollywood has ever known… but it also has to repair the monumental damage caused by the often loathed Prequel Trilogy, which original pioneer director George Lucas directed himself. This new film must reach great heights, but without going too far and alienating the hesitant fans further.

I am not going to lie. When that title burst onto the screen and that synopsis crawl began, I was excited… but I was also hesitant; I’d been here before, and it wasn’t pretty.
Director J.J Abrams went to great lengths to appease everyone with this film, and honour the original trilogy. He shot the film on celluloid and not digital, he brought back Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, he even brought in composer John Williams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (screenwriter for Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) and the opening act of his film is dynamite.
There’s so much attention to detail in settings, vehicles, costumes and worlds, the screen bleeds with a rosy vibrancy and tactile reality. I am not talking drivel: the prequels had a terrible digital sheen to them, since every background was a green screen overlay, this is wonderful in comparison… I repeat, it is wonderful to see real sets again.

The film is dark too. Very dark, and deserves its 12A / PG-13 rating. The First Order are no strangers to playing hard; there’s torture and executions. A firm reaction to the Prequels’ squeaky clean, child friendly ambiguity. The film’s poster boy, the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is something else and will probably divide audience opinions. Personally, I thought it was a very interesting character dynamic, and it was rewarding to see someone new!
The writing and script are lavishly blown out of proportion with wise cracks and good humour. The kids will love little ball droid BB-8 (I know I did) as much as the older generation loved R2-D2. Our new characters, Rey, Finn and Poe (newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Issac) are each intensely likable and I believe the future of the franchise is in safe hands. Daisy Ridley is a fantastic female lead and if it weren’t for someone else… she would have stolen the show.

That’s right, Harrison Ford. Ford is on fire here, and for such a legendary grump in recent years and as a man who more-or-less despised the legacy of Star Wars, he was really alive here. This isn’t Indiana Jones 4 Harrison Ford, this isn’t “I’m too old for this” Ford either, he is still the same lovable rogue we always knew!
I will admit it, right here, the combination of good performances new and old, the revival of practical effects and good film making, made me misty-eyed throughout the film. Whether intended or not, it just happened! Its just great to see a new Star Wars that felt like a good movie again.

So how come I’m giving it only 4.5 cups of cocoa and not the full 5? Well, somehow, the film is too busy, too action packed, and in too much of a hurry to hit too many home runs.
Perhaps the definition of this is Starkiller Base. A planet that the First Order transformed into a massive energy cannon capable of destroying entire solar systems.
Yes… it is an over-sized Death Star, and the script even says as much.
If the film had kept things down to the level of skirmishes and space battles, it would have been fine; it has excellent battles and chase sequences and did not need a finale that was a literal retread of A New Hope. I was starting to feel exhausted halfway through the film, our heroes are constantly under threat, only to turn about and attack the enemy straight on without pause!
Without Starkiller Base, without one of the many, many escape sequences, the film could have made the characters even stronger and the pacing would have been improved.

Boy, this review is huge!
I would like to repeat that this is a firmly enjoyable experience, and while a lot of my praise can be attributed to comparing it to the awful prequels, it is still an awesome film experience. The film is the start of something new; it leaves unanswered questions and you want to see more. The love that was poured into it was palpable.

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