As I sat down in my seat on the night of December 18, it quickly became obvious that many in the audience had returned for their second viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens due to the amount of specific chatter about the movie. I almost felt the need to block my ears to avoid hearing any spoilers, which I had successfully managed to do since the release almost two days prior. This is just one example of how ridiculously popular the film has become in just a short period of time, with life long fans riding high on the roller coaster of nostalgia. Feelings of excitement and child-like giddiness swept over me as I watched the opening scroll, eagerly awaiting what lies beneath. Set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, director J.J. Abrams takes us back to a galaxy far, far away where the remnants of the Galactic Empire have evolved into what is now the First Order, who pose a grave threat to the Republic. Their only hope is a few reluctant heroes with the help of the Resistance.
There’s no denying that characters make up a huge part of the Star Wars universe. Their shining attributes in the original trilogy of films have generally allowed the audience to love them despite which side they fight for. Unfortunately in the case of this long awaited follow up, it’s a very mixed bag. The two new leads, a destitute young scavenger name Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a disillusioned Stormtrooper known as Finn (John Boyega) are both relatable to modern audiences through numerous acts of bravery, whilst dealing with feelings of uncertainly and the longing for a better life. They developed a good rapport early on, but their dialogue is very contemporary mixed with juvenile humour, which often took me out of dramatic moments. Among the returning cast members, Harrison Ford as fan favourite Han Solo does not disappoint, retaining his trademark charisma and sarcasm often in the face of danger. Carrie Fisher on the other hand as Princess Leia sadly underwhelms due to a flat performance and the lack of characterization contributes very little to the story. The antagonizing force of the film, proves only to be a pale imitation of the Galactic Empire, who I would often secretly root for in the previous installments, so you could imagine my disappointment. Kylo Ren as the central villain suffers mostly from the very questionable casting choice of Adam Driver, who delivers a performance uncomfortably similar of Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker. Actions sequences are engaging, impactful and generally well paced throughout the feature; many of which to the benefit of Oscar Isaac as gung-ho X-wing pilot, Poe. The mixture of CG and practical effects weren’t as balance as I had hoped, but the emphasis on returning to traditional means is something I greatly admire and find very encouraging.
In many ways Star Wars: The Forces Awakens has a similar plot structure to A New Hope but very much its own film and a worthy entry into the continuing Star Wars saga, now safely in the capable hands of J.J. Abrams. While it didn’t quite meet my expectations, I do encourage those who are still on the fence to go see it as the unique cinema experience of a Star Wars film alone is well worth the price of admission.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
(2015, dir: J.J. Abrams)