Directed by J.J. Abrams
Written by J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, and Lawrence Kasdan.
Produced by J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Michael Arndt, and Bryan Burk.
Music by John Williams
Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Warwick Davies, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie
UK release date: 17th December 2015
Plot Synopsis: Its been 30 years since the events of Return of The Jedi, and with both Emperor Palpatine and the evil galactic empire having been defeated, it seems as though peace and order has permanently been restored to the galaxy. This however, has all been demolished by a new threat being risen from the ashes of the empire known as The New Order. The race is on for General Leia and her resistance fighters to find Luke Skywalker, who has mysteriously disappeared without a trace, before The New Order can find him first and destroy him…
It felt like only yesterday George Lucas made the best decision he’s ever made back in October 2012, by selling his soul over to Walt Disney Studios in exchange for a greedy amount of 4 billion dollars, but also handing over the reigns and ownership of his Lucasfilm company and his precious baby in the process, to a new generation of film-makers, being able to tell more further stories in this saga and exploring more of this ever expanding universe. This seemed to me just as recent a memory as the time I was lucky and privileged enough to meet J.J. Abrams at the ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ premiere in May 2013, shortly not long after he had been confirmed as the director of the most anticipated movie of 2015. It had been an absolute starstruck moment for sure! Fast forward to the present and ‘STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS’ has now been released at cinemas everywhere (well not quite, still doesn’t land in China for a few more days yet), with hundreds of screenings nationwide being total sell outs and only just smashing box office records by raking in a whopping billion dollars, its safe to say that J.J. Abrams has successfully rectified everything that Lucas failed to do with the prequels that is best I don’t really give a mention to in this review.
The hype for this movie has undoubtedly and obviously unsurprisingly, been the most extraordinary anticipation ever experienced in cinema history. Star Wars means so much to so many fans and their lifes, so much in fact that it makes it all the more daunting of tasks for Abrams to deliver a Star Wars movie that he believes fans want to see, bearing down such a massive weight on both of his shoulders to keep to that promise. The truth of reality is there’s a fundamentally core understanding that you just can’t please everybody, not everyone is going to respond to the film in the same way, film is indeed subjective after all. However, all you can do to make up for that, is make the best out of everything you have at your disposal by giving it your greatest shot, and that is exactly what Abrams has done, by presenting us with a Star Wars movie that a lot of us have been waiting 15 or so years for in getting everything right; that means stripping away all green screens by shooting on real locations, and making everything from sets to special effects very practical, utilizing very little of CGI during its production processes. And as I write this review after seeing the film three times now, I agree that it is in no way the piece of perfection that some were hoping for but no way is it bad either, far from it in fact as Abrams, along with renowned screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (whom penned both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi), and Kathleen Kennedy (film producer, and now president of Lucasfilm) return back to the original roots and heart of what made Star Wars so beloved in the first place by giving us beautifully told milestone storytelling, and characters both old and new that audiences can really care about again.
The most fun part of this seventh entry was seeing Han, Leia and Luke back on our screens again for the first time in 32 years, seeing what kind of roles they now play 30 years on from ROTJ, how they have developed as characters and most importantly, how they relate to the new cast members ready to take up the mantle of this further planned trilogy set ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…’
Where the new characters introduced in this further chapter are concerned, we follow the story of Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a courageous starfighter pilot, sent on a daring mission to find Luke Skywalker who has completely vanished off the radar. While on the planet of Jakku, he is swiftly captured by The New Order; led by the evil Kylo Ren – a Darth Vader obsessive on the hunt for Skywalker – but before Poe gets kidnapped, he ensures to keep a map of Luke’s whereabouts safe with his most trusted BB-8 droid unit. Whilst imprisoned for interrogation, we are introduced to Finn (John Boyega) – an ex-stormtrooper turned good guy, who decides to free Poe and make a daring escape together, as he feels ‘its the right thing to do’. Its not long before their getaway TIE fighter gets shot down, and they crash land back on Jakku. It’s here we get to see Finn meet Rey (Daisy Ridley), a local scavenger who roams the desert wastelands in search for mechanical parts to sell for food rations, while in the meantime waiting for the return of her family; indicating she may or may not have strong ties to the Skywalker family legacy.
Both Boyega and Ridley really hold the film strongly together in their lead roles, getting this new trilogy off to a great start and giving it the real backbone it needs, but I can’t help but feel that not all of the main characters got a fair share of equal screen time as promised by J.J. I know its not an easy task to fully explore and develop every main character in a film on this scope during its 2 hours and 17 minutes of running time, but I was still left rather disappointed in that respect. Even on the villain side, apart from Kylo Ren being the most appealing, they were very much under-developed and had become far lesser priorities. Hopefully this is something that will be worked on more in the next two episodes. But what makes up for this disappointment are the nostalgic moments of the Millennium Falcon back in full action again (the marvellous cinematography of the Falcon flying and gliding throughout the ruins of deserted, battle torn Star Destroyers while trying to outrun other TIE fighters made me grin from ear to ear), seeing Han Solo and Chewbacca up to their old tricks again, or the hairs on the back of my neck standing up when witnessing Finn ignite Luke’s blue lightsaber for the first time.
What I was really looking forward to seeing most is how J.J. has handled and choreographed the climatic lightsaber duel. I’m glad to announce that my prayers have finally been answered, seeing a duel that is not only really stylish and very rarely interrupted, but is also embedded with a lot of realism in terms of the lightsaber being demonstrated as a really dangerous weapon, one that can pierce the skin, making you bleed to death and bringing all the pain and agony that comes with it.
A large majority of die hard Star Wars fans have already moaned about The Force Awakens being a total rehash remake of ‘A New Hope’ and yes, admittedly it does borrow heavily from that aforementioned film, but it sells its unique point by mixing the old with the new, giving fans a really special treat of dazzling astonishment. The film works better on repeated multiple viewings as you soon focus less on the plot holes and more on the wonderful spectacle as you take everything in, making you feel rest assured that the force has well and truly re-awakened itself.
Rating: ★★★★ 1/2