Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is a revelation in many ways and a homage to the original classic films A New Hope (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), but most importantly this film is in every way a classic in its own right and the fans are relieved that, unlike the prequels, it lives up to the staggering hype that has built up over the past three years.

The latest chapter in the Skywalker saga and the first film under the Disney/Lucasfilm banner did not have the involvement of creator George Lucas himself. The legendary franchise was sold to Disney back in 2012 and plans for new chapters in the galaxy far, far away were immediately under way based on Lucas’ unused story ideas and the Star Wars expanded universe novels which are no longer considered canon but from which ideas can still be mined for future films.

Thirty years have passed since we last saw our rebel heroes battle against the Empire in Return of the Jedi (1983) and a lot has happened in that time. The Force Awakens is like catching up with old friends you haven’t seen in ages and finding out that things have not gone well and that they’ve been through some rough times.

Luke Skywalker’s attempt to rebuild the Jedi order has failed miserably due to one of his students being seduced by the Dark Side. In the void left by the absence of new Jedi Knights and a self-exiled Luke Skywalker, a new totalitarian regime called The First Order has risen up to replace the Empire bent on destroying Leia Organa’s New Republic using a planet annihilating weapon known as Starkiller Base under the rule of Supreme Leader Snoke and his new apprentice Kylo Ren.

All the familiar iconic elements of the classic Star Wars films are here. A new trio of reluctant young heroes is drawn into the galactic struggle forming strong bonds as they take up the fight against the forces of evil. Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young orphan scavenger living on the desert planet Jakku with survival instincts and mysterious powers, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an ace X-Wing fighter pilot on a secret mission, and a new Stormtrooper recruit, Finn (John Boyega), who decides after his first battle that The First Order is not the side he wants to be on.

Star Wars was always a family saga first and The Force Awakens continues with a compelling story of dark family failings and archetypal characters. Han and Leia have had a child who is strong with the Force and trained by his uncle Luke to become a Jedi. But something has gone terribly wrong with him and we find Han, Leia and Luke, consumed with regret, now flung apart to the far reaches of the galaxy. 

A Star Wars hallmark is it’s grand visual spectacle and iconic concepts and technical inventions; the lightsaber, Jedi Knights, the Death Star, aerial dogfights in space, the Force, light speed, the Millennium Falcon, a galactic cantina for alien creatures from around the galaxy, to name a few, all re-imagined tropes from classic westerns and fairy tales brought together in one compelling adventure with beloved archetypal characters.

Passed on to a new generation of filmmakers who grew up with the Star Wars films, the franchise is now in good hands with Kathleen Kennedy and skillful directors like J.J. Abrams – Super 8 (2011). I felt that here is someone that understands the appeal and the power of the original films. Here is a director, who as a fan of the franchise himself, is able to successfully play within the established Star Wars universe and tap into the feeling and nostalgia that made the original films so magical.

There’s great chemistry between John Boyega’s Finn and Daisy Ridley’s Rey as they navigate the classic hero’s journey and are taken on a wild ride that’s as exhilarating to watch as the original films. John Williams also reprises his classic musical score while creating new themes with wonderful nostalgic effect.

The film ends on a satisfying emotional and somewhat melancholic note but there’s a shaft of brightness piercing the darkness that gives hope for the forces of good and the future of Star Wars. The critical reviews have been overwhelmingly positive for The Force Awakens, with many even calling it one of the best films of the year.


1 comment:

Shiran said...

Very good review, without spoilers.