Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson
Directed by JJ Abrams
It’s finally here. Undoubtedly the most anticipated film of 2015 – Star Wars: the Force Awakens. But does it live up to the hype?
Well, yes and no.
It’s not a bad film by any measure. And I can tell you without a shred of doubt, it is leagues ahead of the prequels. So in that sense, the Force Awakens succeeds.
Where it didn’t quite pay off for me is the plot – Abrams played it too safe, stuck too closely to the formula of A New Hope and left some pretty gaping plot holes. But more on that later. Here’s what the Force Awakens does well.
From the opening credit scroll you are thrust back into the wonderful universe of Star Wars. From that point on the action and adventure does not stop. The film is long, but it flies by and rarely pauses for breath. John William’s beautiful score swells, the light sabers flare with their unmistakable crackle and the one liners come thick and fast. If I could sum up the Force Awakens in one word, it would be fun. Rarely do I want to watch a film a second time shortly after a first viewing, but with the Force Awakens, I couldn’t wait to get back in the theater for a second round.
The latest installment in the Star Wars universe is filled to the brim with talent – new blood and old.
For the new blood you have some of the most exciting talents to emerge in the past few years: John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and his Ex Machina co-star Domhnall Gleeson.
Oscar Isaac in particular is charismatic and intensely likable as gun rebel pilot, Poe Dameron (think of a completely benevolent Han Solo) – unfortunately however, his screen time is short. Let’s hope we get more of Poe in episode 8. Likewise, Adam Driver brilliantly portrays the conflicted sith villian of the franchise – Kylo Ren. Driver brings a combination of anger, intensity and fragility to Kylo Ren, who may just be the most intriguing Star Wars villain to date.
John Boyega is energetic and witty as reformed stormtrooper Finn, although the purpose of his character ultimately doesn’t extend further than the funny black guy. I have no doubt however, that a greater purpose will be revealed in episodes 8 and 9. Domhnall Gleeson could perhaps be accused of overacting as First Order’s General Hux – however the overacting does not feel out of place for his character.
However the star of the Force Awakens is without a doubt, Daisy Ridley as Rey. Ridley is a talent pure and simple. Charming, fragile yet strong and independent – there is no other from the stella young cast who I would prefer to be the lead in our new series of Star Wars.
From the old bloods, Han, Chewie, Leia and yes – Luke are all back, with differing amounts of screen time. The bulk of the screen time is taken by Han and Chewie, which not a bad thing. It is fantastic to see them back in the driver seat of the Millennium Falcon. And it’s more than just a cameo – Han and Chewie come along for most of the ride.
I was skeptical as to whether Harrison Ford could re-capture the charisma of young Han Solo. Recent performances by Ford, of grumpy old men, have been lackluster. Happily, my concerns were put at bay. Ford seems to have lost the grizzly old man voice and is charming as ever as Solo, not slowed down by age.
Ok, onto some of my concerns with the film. First of all, the use of CGI characters. Both Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Lupita Nyong’o’s character Maz Kanata are heavily CGI – and it doesn’t look great. Scenes with these characters, at times, felt like the prequels, which is something to be avoided at all costs.
However my biggest gripe is with the plot. Abrams plays it very safe with the opening chapter and the parallels with A New Hope are obvious. The fact that the ‘big threat’ in the Force Awakens is just a bigger death star, feels lazy and felt disappointing when it was revealed.
Further, there are a number of bizarre plot points that I believe, will not stand up to scrutiny once the hype has died down. To name but a few: why are Leia and the gang still ‘rebels’ when the empire was overthrown and the First Order is a new, previously unknown organisation? How did the First Order build and deploy a giant death star without anyone knowing about it? Why doesn’t Kylo Ren know that his idol, Darth Vader turned to the light? How does Finn, a stormtrooper brainwashed and programmed from birth, have such an exceptional sense of humor and social skills?
Kylo, did you not see Return of the Jedi?
You may say that I am being a little unfair and picky here, but I disagree. All previous Star Wars films have been endlessly picked apart, discussed and scrutinized over any minor plot point by thousands – and the Force Awakens will be the same. It’s not too much to expect that the plot will be carefully written, and re-written with this in mind. This is after all Star Wars we’re talking about, not a run of the mill sci-fi romp. The script should be watertight and Disney has enough money to pay the best writers.
Nevertheless, all gripes aside, The Force Awakens is a hugely fun adventure and I cannot wait to see how the series continues.
Pick up the blu-ray of the Force Awakens here.