Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Star Wars has returned, 10 years following the conclusion of the prequel trilogy, Episode VII arrives just a few short years following the big news of the change in leadership at Lucasfilm, and its sale to Disney. JJ Abrams took on the task of bringing the series back to the big screen, and relaunching it for a new series of episodic instalments alongside the anthology one off films set to begin in just 12 months with Star Wars: Rogue One.

The Force Awakens picks up approximately 30 years following Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, writers JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan have crafted a tale that emphasises that this setting has simply continued on for 30 years without the audience, who are just now starting to catch up once again (expanded universes aside).

It is abundantly clear that a key focus for the Force Awakens is replicating the tone/feel of the classic trilogy. In a story sense this means delivering something that works as a standalone film, but references and hints at detailed histories and events that have occurred beyond what you see here. Force Awakens manages this balance well, for Episode IV we heard of Clone Wars, Senates, and the purge of the Jedi, in Episode VII we hear similar details of galactic events but without over saturating the audience, it brings a real sense of intrigue and depth to the film.

The main storyline is an exhilarating space adventure, it’s an energetic film that rarely slows down to allow the audience to catch its breath. There’s no avoiding the fact that the structure and events are familiar to the classic trilogy, particularly Episode IV, and it is this aspect that tends to be the films greatest strength, and largest weakness.

Firmly set in the realm of space-fantasy, as always Star Wars makes some pretty massive reaches in its style of technology and the like, however as story telling mechanisms it’s entertaining and all in the spirit of this franchise.

Fans would be aware that the previous expanded universe has been reset, this has given the writers a new slate from which to launch the post-Jedi story setting however a number of these existing ideas have been worked into the film. Star Wars it at its strongest when delivering strong characters and compelling drama and Force Awakens is very strong here.

There’s a blend of new and existing characters (mostly new), and each of them are well thought out and with a developmental arc that satisfyingly progresses over the film. The script sees the return of witty dialogue back and forth between characters, and the villain of this film (but possibly not the trilogy) is thoroughly designed so as to be one of if not the most interesting character here.

Harrison Ford makes a long awaited return as Han Solo for this film, and his performance is wonderful. He jumps back into the role without missing a beat and the characterisation of Solo in this new period is well considered, it’s a great return of the character. Carrie Fisher’s role isn’t as prolific as Ford’s however seeing them on  screen together in these roles brings the house down. Mark Hamill’s performance is difficult to address without bordering close to spoilers so I won’t say anything in that regard!

Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are both highlights here. Adam Driver is given a tonne of motivation and drama to utilise and he’s really effective in capitalising on it. Daisy Ridley a relative newcomer is strong in her role and a joy to watch, as is John Boyega who shows strong onscreen charisma here.

It’d be remiss not to mention a return to practical effects for the series and it’s hard to deny the impact that a more tangible approach makes onscreen. Obviously there are plenty of visual effects on display here as well but it walks a good balance and results in a great looking film.

John Williams returned to score this film and at times its strong however this is mostly when echoing scores of previous instalments in the series, after a few viewings I haven’t found anything to be iconic for this film alone which is a little disappointing.

The Force Awakens is a going to be a massive relaunch of the series, it’s an exciting time for fans given its amazingly only a 12 month wait until the next film. JJ Abrams has delivered an excellent instalment, with the only real shortcoming being that it follows the previous structure so closely.

If the above isn’t clear enough, I love this film, it’s out in cinemas now, I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

 

Leith spent most of his formative years growing up on the coastal fringes of Western Australia without a cinema in sight. There he grew up on the wonders of home rentals before relocating to Perth and gaining access to a proper cinematic experience just in time for the Star Wars Special Edition re-releases. From there Leith's love of movies expanded to volunteering on a Star Wars fan film, reviewing films, writing about film news, and attending film and pop-culture related conventions on the other side of the world. Leith's favourite films are too many to mention but all start with the Star Wars saga, Back to the Future, the Dark Knight trilogy, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and all things Kevin Smith. With an insatiable appetite for all things pop-culture related Leith also has an unhealthy addiction to the world of comics and can often be found buried under a pile of unread back issues madly trying to catch up on a number of titles coming out from mostly DC and Darkhorse.
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