From the remains of the old Empire a new regime willing to use the dark side is arising, and so a senate sponsored rebel force must track down Jedi to assist in the fight for freedom.
Though enjoying the original Star Wars trilogy as much as any good sci-fi epic, I can’t be said to be a big fan per se, and so it was with an objective mind that I approached The Force Awakens, quite expecting it to be better than the prequels but not expecting it to be especially life changing/affirming in any major way, and it is this objectivity that will govern the following review.
First of all, from the very first frame, fans will be ecstatic to discover that, due to the simple story, identifiable characters and wonderful aesthetics, The Force Awakens FEELS like a Star Wars film of old.
From the costumes to the retro spacecraft interiors the film has been impeccably designed, not to a standard that makes us prickle at the ingenuity of originality, but in a way that tricks us into thinking we’ve seen all these places and things before. We haven’t of course, for the most part anyways, but considering the general increased sense of scale the seamlessness of visual continuity between the original trilogy and this is actually quite remarkable.
This ‘continuity of familiarity’ also extends to the plot, which mirrors the very first Star Wars film almost too stringently. It’s true the characters being propelled by this plot are different and have their own motivations, which add a breath of fresh air to the proceedings, but the overlying story has almost certainly been engineered to ease a tentative fanbase back into an ongoing franchise that’s future popularity hangs on this very film, a comfortable segue into the next era of the franchise so to speak.
This is a very smart approach, giving the fans, in essence, exactly what they’ve been asking for since the disappointment of The Phantom Menace, which is to say, it’s the same as Episode 4, but different; so if any fans take umbrage it’s literally they’re own fault… Not that they should, and, in this writers opinion, if they do they will be revealing themselves to be the duplicitous, impossible to please fiends that they are.
Despite the smarts of this approach however, for me, it goes too far this way. Yes it feels like Star Wars, but it’s almost entirely reliant on previously built mythology along with story and character moulds, and attempts to build it’s own corner of the Star Wars universe not at all; like the film equivalent of doing up a classic car, you’re building something new with old parts and it’s wonderful in its own way but there’s nothing of originality about it.
That’s the gripe, so what of the positives? Well, a seamless and industrious quantity of physical and digital FX have been incorporated to produce the best looking Star Wars film to date, with visuals that, barring an entirely CG bad guy, promise to stand the test of time admirably.
Better than that thought, missing Mr. George Lucas’s writing antics, the dialogue is actually pretty good, and despite the fact that most of the new characters come from a Star Wars mould, they are very rounded and likable souls. As for the pre-established characters, well, they are just a delight, with Harrison Ford especially shaking off the acting funk he’s been in for the last many years and actually carrying himself like he’s enjoying the experience.
It’s not perfect, no Star Wars film is, but The Force Awakes is a brilliantly executed and confidently told addition to the franchise. Making its main mission to re-familiarise us to what a Star Wars film should be it unfortunately has little to say for itself in its own voice, but likeable characters, gigantic visuals and decent action make it a joy to behold. It will never be as seminal or memorable as the original trilogy but it has opened up the gate for a new, enjoyable, plentiful era of Star Wars goodness.