Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love JJ Abrams (Review with SPOILERS)

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Star Wars The Force Awakens REY

In October 2012, Disney announced that they had acquired Lucasfilm for a whopping $4 billion, and ever since that day, filmgoers and fanboys alike have been half dreading, half struggling to contain their excitement for the release of Episode VII. Well, it’s finally here, but is it as good as everybody is saying it is? In brief, yes it is amazing, but it does have flaws.

The Force Awakens is set approximately thirty years after the end of Return of the Jedi; Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has gone missing, and his sister Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is leading a rebellion alliance into battle against ‘The First Order’, an evil Nazi-style organization led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

One of the film’s key strongpoints is the wonderful performances of the two stars; John Boyega and Daisy Ridley play Finn and Rey respectively. It’s arguably the best acting of the entire saga. Both Finn and Rey are engaging, and entertaining, there’s dynamism whenever they’re on screen together, and Boyega’s Finn provides a lot of the film’s unexpectedly pleasing comedy. But the real star of the show is Daisy Ridley; she is magnificently Leia-esque in her portrayal of Rey. She’s an extremely active heroine, like Princess Leia, she becomes the Death Star damsel in distress, but she’s easily capable of escaping by herself, she’s self-sufficient, the force is indeed strong with this one.

Another pleasing element of The Force Awakens is its use of nostalgia and pastiche. The film is laced with nods and references to the original trilogy, for example, Hans once states that he’s “got a bad feeling about this”, and there’s also a seedy and rather familiar looking cantina filled with the intergalactic underbelly of society, I can imagine the characters had never seen “a more wretched hive of scum and villainy” in their lives, or maybe some of them had visited the Mos Eisley spaceport.

Whilst the nostalgia is pleasing and it really does take you back to those wonderful films, it is unfortunately over done and this ends up being the film’s central flaw. Abrams almost tries to put in too much nostalgia, and it results in lazy storytelling, the story is effectively a carbon copy of A New Hope. They both begin with a droid carrying an important message, both revolve around the destruction of a death star, and Hans’ death, or to put it another way, the death of a father figure to the protagonist, is exactly the same as the death of Obi Wan in the original.

The First Order (Abrams answer to the Empire) is also a rather disappointing element. Adam Driver is menacingly brilliant as Kylo Ren, right up until the moment he takes his mask off around halfway through the film. At which point, we see that he is just a pretty normal bloke with a normal voice, albeit with a slightly off-putting face. All the menace and threat he did carry has all but disappeared, making him no match for his grandfather Darth Vader. Ren’s boss, Andy Serkis’ CGI induced Snoke, lacks just as much menace, I mean Snoke is the type of name you’d give a pet Chihuahua, not the supreme leader of The First Order. Then, there’s the painfully miscast Domnhall Gleeson as Ren’s right-hand man, General Hux. Gleeson is excellent as a shy yet posh romantic interest in a soppy rom-com, but here, he’s about as scary as a Chihuahua called Snoke.

Despite its flaws, The Force Awakens is, at its simplest, just pure entertainment, which, at the end of the day, is what Star Wars has always and should always be. I firmly believe JJ Abrams was the perfect choice to rekindle the public’s love affair with a Galaxy far, far away; he was there, in the audience, just as angry as everybody else when The Phantom Menace graced our screens (I actually loved it at the cinema but I was only 6), and he sought out to right George Lucas’ wrongs. He has certainly done that now, as The Force Awakens is a more than worthy addition to the Star Wars saga.

Thank you Mr. Abrams.

Josh Hall

sci-fi, action, adventure | USA, 2015 | Disney Pictures | 17th December 2015 (UK) | Dir.JJ Abrams | Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis,