Mild spoilers in this review
It’s hard to think back to a film that’s caused this much global attention and hype. We’ve all been harvesting feelings of nostalgia for the original films, especially with dark memories of the prequel films still fresh in our minds.
The iconic saga continued on with JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens, which served a duel purpose: to continue the story of our beloved characters and to pay homage to the original trilogy. But did the film live up to the massive hype?
The Force Awakens wasn’t too unlike A New Hope from beginning to end, with our protagonist Rey (Daisy Ridley) playing the role of a wide-eyed dreamer stuck scavenging in the harsh deserts on the planet Jakku, roughly 30 years after the Empire’s fall. The early opening and introduction to the planet is a delight of the senses, with practical effects blending in with CGI perfectly to create a world with more depth and beauty than Tatooine.
Rey is soon paired with Stormtrooper deserter Finn (John Boyega) who had a brief, but memorable encounter with Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The story follows the same formula of the first series of films, with an ‘awakening’ of the Force leading to characters discovering the true destiny before them in a fight against the dark.
The only problem with following A New Hope almost moment for moment, is if you’re going to stick to the original formula, the aim should be to make it better. A Force Awakens is a heartfelt attempt to recapture the magic of the old films, but the overall influence of Disney, which can be blamed for the lack of tension and sense of true danger did leave much to be desired.
Another thing that was desired was the initial magic of finding new worlds, which was only felt in the film’s opening. The sense of wonder and adventure are mostly contained to Rey’s POV, but the audience is told more than things than shown, which in a world as expansive and diverse as Star Wars is unnecessary.
Then, there’s villain issues…
There’s a reason why we didn’t see Darth Vader’s face until Return of the Jedi…Abrams should’ve kept that in mind for villain Kylo Ren, played clumsily by Adam Driver. Ren was billed as a Darth Vader ‘prodigy’ type (and because of spoilers, that’s all I’ll say). Instead, all we get from Kylo Ren is someone who’s playing at being the bad guy, but can’t get out of his own way.
The film starts and ends with a series of his mistakes, rendering any threatening presence he had useless. The ‘unmasking’ of Kylo Ren, to reveal a whining half-brooding Adam Driver whispering into Daisy Ridley’s ear was more reminiscent of a Twilight movie than Star Wars and was done intentionally by Disney to market to young girls.
Villain issues aside, the fact that this is merely the first movie in an eventual Star Wars ‘cinematic universe’ gives room to improve upon some of the aforementioned problems. Daisy Ridley’s performance alone draws in the audience and Rey truly holds her own to Luke Skywalker, along with lovable droid BB-8, who stole the show in his own right.
While the film was far from flawless, for the sake of fun and nostalgia the film is a must-see, which far surpassed the prequels. Let’s just hope in the next film we get more to the Star Wars universe, more tertiary characters and hopefully a villain we can truly loath and fear.