Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoliers)
Having been more a Star Trek fan than Star Wars I haven’t been all that excited by The Force Awakens. It’s various TV spots and trailers have left me even less enthused with a Universe that has been exploited almost to death by the steady stream of dull and shallow tie in’s. I joked about only going to spoil the fun of my friends, yes I’m that guy!
So without further ado what did this largely Star Wars Ignorant Sci-fi nerd make of The Force Awakens? Best get Reading…
Lights dim, expectations spike and everything goes quiet and then they roll. Those Yellow Letters seen so often but somehow they still push expectations of Millions through the roof. They finnish, the film starts and we’re off on a ride through a Galaxy far, far away. But as familiar as those credits and musical score are things are very different this time around.
JJ Abrams and Disney could simply have put together another shallow, tepid film offering little more than fan service depleting what little good will was left in one of Cinemas most enduring franchises but credit where it’s due, what we got is far, far more than that. Abrams stamps his authority on the movie in perhaps the bravest, riskiest way possible by moving the universes key characters to little more than supporting roles and giving the lions share of screen time and narrative to the new characters Rey and Finn.
It’s around the pairing of Rey and Finn that The Force Awakens revolves and the bond between the pair carries the weight of the film from the very beginning. Rey is brilliantly played by the beautiful Daisy Ridley and it’s her characters vulnerability and fearlessness that drags you into her story and this is very much her story. We first meet Rey on her home planet of Jakku scavenging an old spaceship for parts to sell for food. A chance encounter with aBB8 driod throws her into the story head first and from the moment she rescues it from another scavengers she rarely leaves the screen of what becomes her story. One that has a supporting cast that includes Hans Solo, Chewbacca, Kylo Ren and Finn revolving around her like planets orbiting their own star. It’s her awakening that gives the film it’s title and true purpose.
Soon after rescuing the BB8 Droid Rey meets Finn played by Jon Boyega a former Storm Trooper who deserts the first order after witnessing a massacre of innocent villagers during an first operation which sees them capture a resistance pilot. In an effort to escape Finn rescues the pilot and they proceed to fight there way off the First Order ship in a stole Tie Fighter. The pilot turns out to be on a mission to locate a map leading to the last known location of Luke Skywalker the last Jedi and perhaps the only hope the resistance have of winning the fight. Initially seeking only to escape the First Order Finn returns to help save Rey and discovers his true purpose.
The final keys Character is the brilliantly portrayed bad guy Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver who bares the mantle for the Dark Side. Not since we first encountered Darth Vader has Star Wars had such a genuinely threatening villain and his wider story really adds to the mystery surrounding Ren. He is far from the typical Star Wars bad guy, sure he is menacing, dressed in black and spends the majority of the film behind a mask but his story is one of pain and anguish. He remarks that he often feels like he is being torn in two by the Force and despite choosing the path of Darkness. He is a clearly conflicted character and that adds a level of humanity that Darth Vader for all his Darkness simply never had. It’s hard to go into details without dropping spoilers but Kylo Ren is central to the unfolding story and is the spark that sets the film alight providing it’s biggest shock. It’s a twist that provides the final confirmation that this time things really are going to be different for Star Wars. Times have changed and even the greatest need to change with them.
There are numerous highlights throughout the film and it comes to a dramatic and exhilarating finale with a stunning space combat sequence which pits the Rebels against the evil First Order’s Sun draining super weapon that is threatening to end the rebellion once and for all. What follows is an exhilarating combat sequence that i won’t spoil for you here but i will say it was a real highlight and the perfect example of how such action heavy set pieces should be handled.
This like so much of the movie runs alongside the more intimate story of Rey and Finn as they struggle to survive against the First Order and Kylo Ren. The fight that follows is typical Star Wars, a fight between good and evil. Darkness versus light and one that is not destined to come to a close this time around and will lead us into the next entry in the saga. Leaving kylo Ren severely wounded but still alive will enable him to come back even stronger maybe he will be changed, damaged beyond recognition and haunted by his actions.
Abrams tells a story rich in History and drenched in Star Wars mythology but somehow it still feels fresh and current. The plot loosely centres around locating Luke SkyWalker who has disappeared following the loss of Kylo Ren to the Darkside. The story feel secondary at times but not in a bad way almost moving aside to let the characters grow and shine yet keeps them heading on the same path. The path leads them to Hans Solo, Chewbacca ands Princess Leia and like fate they collide and the circle is almost complete.
By focusing so heavily on Rey and Finn Abrams was able to craft a story largely free of the enormous shadow cast by the previous movies. Yes this is still very much a Star Wars movie but crucially you could remove the branding, rename the characters, locations, historical events and it would stand on it’s own merits . Many movies including episodes I, II and III buckled under the sheer weight of expectation having the Star Wars name onboard brings but Episode VII cherishes the rich, cliche’ riddled history and leverages it to dramatic and often staggering effect. The casting of Rey and Finn was a master stroke and by choosing to focus on their story The Force Awakens manages to breath new life into the franchise and show cases some exceptional writing and a genuine desire to be different. It’s rich heritage isn’t buried or betrayed it’s worn proudly on it’s sleeve for all to see but The Force Awakens is a new era for Star Wars, a new beginning and one that utterly blew the cobwebs out of my tiny little cynical mind.
Episode VII is not only the best Star Wars movie I’ve seen but it sits proudly alongside the likes of Alien, Serenity, 2001: A Space Odyssey. I guess that’s where Star Wars has always belonged.
A glorious return to form for both Abrams and Star Wars and if this is the standard new owners Disney maintain for the rest of the trilogy than Star Wars is in safe hands.