J.J Abrams fuses a great combination of both old and new in The Force Awakens; drawing on what we loved so much from the original trilogy to create a loveable old-school homage to the beloved space epic. The force is strong with this one!
The lights go down, a black background with blue letters ‘A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’ appear on the screen followed by one of THE most iconic scores in film history and I’m instantly transported back to the first time I ever saw a Star Wars film.
Three decades after the Rebel Alliance triumphed over the Galactic Empire, a new threat has risen from the ashes – the First Order. The resistance, lead by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), are on a mission to find AWOL Jedi Luke Skywalker to help return balance to the galaxy. They send their best pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and his droid, BB-8, to the planet of Jakku to retrieve a vital piece of a map that will lead them to Skywalker.
Poe and BB-8 become separated after they are ambushed by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), and the First Order’s band of storm troopers. But Finn, (John Boyega) a disillusioned storm trooper helps rescue Poe as he escapes from General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and the First Order. The two of them crash land back on Jakku in search of BB-8 but become separated, with Finn quickly running into the droid and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), and they team up to return BB-8 to the resistance with the help of a couple of familiar faces!
The look and feel of the seventh episode is just perfect. Unlike the CGI stuffed prequels, J.J Abrams has opted for the more organic approach, using real locations, props and practical effects to bring The Force Awakens’ fantastically varied Worlds alive. The vast desert landscapes of Jakku, filmed in Abu Dhabi, closely resemble Tatooine, yet with the addition of new towns and species (such as Luggabeasts) create a new and exciting planet. Abrams also nicely references previous instalments with visible wreckages of a Star Destroyer, X-Wing fighter and an AT-AT. Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana is also very reminiscent of the Cantina bar from A New Hope but with lots of new and intriguing alien species.
Much like the 2009 Star Wars reboot, Abrams has included a lot of nods to the original trilogy to connect the new film to the saga. There are a lot of nice touches like using wipe transitions between scenes, Finn accidentally turning on the holochess table and also throwing the remote training ball Obi-Wan gave to Luke while aboard the Millennium Falcon. Other notable Easter eggs include the flags displayed on Maz Kanata’s castle; Boba Fett’s Mandelorian flag is featured as well as the flag of the 501st Legion. Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Bille Lourd, is also featured as a Resistant officer with a rather familiar hairstyle!
Of the new characters, Boyega is instantly likable with some great comedic lines, (I was in sanitation) I absolutely loved his bromance with Poe, spinoff anybody? Ridley is superbly versatile as Rey with a captivating performance, annoyingly I couldn’t stop thinking of Keira Knightley though. Isaac is perfect in his role as a heroic and handsome pilot, but unfortunately very under-used, but Driver is the standout with his deeply conflicted and anguished performance. Menacing with his mask on, yet vulnerable and hugely emotive without it, Driver brings the intensity, especially the scene in which he punches his wound! I also couldn’t help but fall in love with BB-8!
Of the original characters, it was so lovely to see Han Solo and Chewbacca together again back in the Millennium Falcon. As soon as Solo grinned and said ‘Chewie, we’re home’ I just couldn’t help but smile, they really did have some fantastic lines. Solo’s character arc was superbly done, to develop from his typical rogue/smuggler ways at the start of the film, to becoming the central force that unites the main players to combat the First Order was a great redemption story. His eventual meeting with Leia was really touching and I’m so glad he tries to make amends by her in one the most heartbreaking acts in Star Wars history. Yes you know what scene I’m talking about, the part where Solo reaches out to try and bring his lost son back home. If that didn’t give you a lump in your throat, I don’t think anything will!
As much as I loved The Force Awakens it wasn’t without faults. I feel like Abrams played it too safe and the story line was just too close to the originals, much like this years Jurassic World, it was almost a remake rather than a reboot. There were also so many questions left unanswered, like who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? What happened to the Knights of Ren? The list goes on! And that ending; arghhh!
Even with the film’s problems, I undoubtedly enjoyed every minute of it and cannot wait for May 2017. With a great mixture of adventure, humor and heart, this is the film that the fans were all waiting for, and one that earns the Star Wars tagline.