Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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*Contains minor spoilers*

Thirty years has gone by since the events unfolded in Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is now a general, and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) along with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) are back to what they know best. Arising from the fallen Empire, is the First Order led by mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) & General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) under the puppeteers’ master plan: to find the map that leads to Luke and to destroy the Republic with their new weapon Starkiller which echos the Death Star.

In the smoothest of fashions, Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams was seamlessly able to introduce us to a new trio of exciting heros. Top Resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) was given a piece of a map to Luke by a Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow) on the “junkyard” of a planet Jakku. Poe quickly has to give the map to his droid BB-8 before being captured by Kylo Ren. The Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) helps Poe escape from an Imperial Ship, and back to Jakku via crash landing which separates Finn from Poe but eventually leads to Finn running across Rey (Daisy Ridley) & BB-8. The duo team up to give the map to The Resistance while coming across new foes and old faces alike.

This is easily the most exciting Star Wars film in the Saga thus far. While the overall look and feel of the film is very J.J. Abrams which by no means is bad, it is still able to capture the attention of new and old fans. There is a lot of action from start to finish, with some interesting events in-between such as meeting Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) in a catina reminiscent of the cantina in A New Hope, the landscape of the desert planet Jakku is breathtaking, and the two groups that want to capture Han. A Force Awakens may be the most exciting and best looking in the Saga but it goes without saying that there are too many similarities to A New Hope. Would The Force Awakens have been as good as it is if these similarities weren’t there? I’m not entirely sure, but it was definitely able to bring out heaps of nostalgia, and re-kindle the magic that the original trilogy brought to the world.

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What separates this film from the prequels was the decision to do a lot of practical effects, meaning real sets, planets, and creatures. For the most part a lot of the things looked very real, and only further enhanced by special effects, and even things that were fully SFX looked solid. This is something the prequels failed at horrifically. Abrams shot the film on 35mm Kodak film stock which helped contribute to the film having a feel to it, as will Rian Johnson in Episode VIII. The entire battle sequence on Takodana was incredible; starting with the fight on top the rubble that was Maz Kanata’s temple leading to The Resistance Fighters coming across the body of water in their X-Wings to John William’s absolutely incredible piece of music March of the Resistance. All of that was already remarkable to further catapult this entire scene as the best in the movie is Finn watching Poe take out like 10 tie fighters in one long take.

There is no debate to this, any fight sequence involving an aircraft was breathtaking, from the blistering fast X-Wings to Rey pulling that marvelous stunt with the Millennium Falcon. However, the fight scenes with the light sabers were underwhelming. While it was pretty badass to see the Storm Trooper flex on Finn and call him a traitor, that battle ended a little too soon. The final battle wasn’t the best it could of been because of everything Kylo Ren was going through, and because Daisy had an advantage over that despite having less training. Perhaps when they both have more training and at full strength we can see a better light saber battle? When you think about it asides from Luke in Empire Strikes Back, all the other light saber battles involved Jedi’s or others who were more than trained. A cool fact that was never mentioned in the actual film. If you look at Kylo Ren’s crossguard light saber which is an ancient model, it is literally flaring up as if it’s seriously unstable. The two little sabers on the bottom are actually exhaust vents letting out raw energy from the central blade. In the books which are no longer considered canon? Even though the script was based on one of the books. Kylo Ren’s power-source is cracked making the blade unstable which complements his personality.

 

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Another thing that makes this film so brilliant is the cast. John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have such great chemistry together. Finn has a comedic role in comparison to Daisy’s more serious character but they are both kids in the end but are able to handle themselves for the most part with added help from Han Solo & Chewie who are both able to bring out the energy they had from the original trilogy despite being much older. Oscar Isaac as Poe probably was my favourite character in this film, unfortunately his role is limited here. Despite having not that much screen time, he brought a ton of energy every single time he appeared on screen and I hope there’s much more to come from him. Kylo Ren was a compelling villain. He was torn because the light and dark side which made for unpredictability and raw emotions. A side note I noticed on my second watch was how offsetting the Dutch Tilts were on Kylo Ren, they were executed exquisitely. Although it was kind of strange seeing the menacing villain take off his mask only to reveal Adam Driver’s young adult look. I sort of felt less afraid of him but maybe that’s because he started to struggle too much with his inner demons and a certain somebody as a new foe. It was great to see Carrie Fisher reprise her role as Leia as well. I almost forgot to mention two huge surprises, Domhnall Gleeson absolutely owned his role as General Hux and his speech was enough to have me on board to further see his character’s path. Gwendoline Christie otherwise known as Brianne of Tarth who in this universe is known as Captain Phasma, the supposedly strict captain of the stormtrooper, was given almost nothing to do in this film asides from being easily used captured and used to help the efforts of The Resistance. It was probably the biggest disappointment especially considering who they choose for this role, so I hope that is justified in Ep. VIII, as well as the homies from The Raid not even being able to throw a single punch in this film.

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Back to the topic of too many similarities; It almost made the film feel like a re-boot in a sense, there was enough to separate this film from A New Hope, and to be honest it’s everything A New Hope wanted to be.. It’s unfortunate that they followed this path to please new fans and old fans alike, and by no means does that make this movie any less spectacular, but it held the film back a little bit along with too many unanswered questions to an already rushed ending. To it’s defense it may have just set up a more dramatic film a la Empire Strikes Back and bring us all into new uncharted territory. Speaking of uncharted territory; something I loved about this film was how everything felt so new and sleek but it was familiar designs, such as the X-Wings looking similar but a little more weathered, and the Imperial Ships were so familiar but so new at the same time, not to mention the classic swipes to another scene, the Nostalgia gets you here.

While it may be a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, The Force Awakens seems all too familiar to the events that happened in the past. The film in general was a ton of fun when it comes down to it though and actually quite humorous. If the next two films in the trilogy can bring us some fresh story-lines to the beautiful imagery and exciting new characters, Star Wars will even be bigger than it already is. After the film ended on a cliffhanger, all we can wonder is will all of our questions be answered in the next film? Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Will Kylo Ren make full commitment to the Dark Side now? Is Finn sensitive to the Force? Maybe I’ll go watch the film a few more times and pretend like my questions will be answered… while I sip on a large icee with big eyes as Poe takes down those Tie Fighters.

My Rating: ★★★★½ / ★★★★★

Dir. J.J. Abrams
IMDb 8.6/10 – Rotten Tomatoes 94%

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“Show me again the power of the darkness, and I’ll let nothing stand in our way. Show me, grandfather, and I will finish what you started.”

 

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