Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review (No Spoilers)
17 December 2015
You can forget your troubles with those Imperial slugs, Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens, is a success. A good story, a brilliant cast, riveting action scenes and oozing with nostalgia, it all combines to make it compelling viewing In fact, it’s the nostalgia that really makes this movie, bringing tremendous life, superb humour and, of course, imbibing emotion. There are moments when tears might just fall, and moments when your favourite beloved characters, both animate and inanimate, become even more beloved. For any Star Wars fan that craved something similar to the original trilogy, this movie nailed all the hallmarks of nostalgia without ever feeling exploitative.
Stripping out the nostalgia, The Force Awakens obviously opens in the usual Star Wars vein of a space sequence following the opening crawl of text. It all looks familiar without actually quite feeling it. This is a vastly different world that we last left with both the original trilogy and the prequels. Without Stormtroopers and Tie Fighters buzzing about, it could be any science fiction film. Occasional moments during the film I felt if this was not Star Wars, it’s a fairly standard sort of space adventure. Then as swift as these thoughts would begin, our heroes would do something to ignite the nostalgia and those thoughts would swiftly vanish. The adorable BB8 droid was responsible for most of that early on, and then later Han Solo and Chewbacca. By the second half of the film, the new characters were successfully intertwined with the old so that the circle was now complete and we were fully in the grip of a classic Star Wars movie.
Credit must go to the character design and casting. Who could have thought BB8 would be such a successful substitute for R2D2? While not as sarcastic or heroic as R2D2, his verve and intuition, especially dealing with humans, was integral in the momentum of the movie. The character of Rey, the main female lead, was flawless and perfectly cast. Her fellow lead, Finn, was almost as good, with the only foible being occasional over-acting. There’s no complaints about Kylo Ren, the new villain, nor any of the other roles. Most actors would be unknown to most people, which continues the wise trend of avoiding typecasting that George Lucas started with the original Star Wars all those years ago.
Weaknesses? The First Order, who are in control, seem too detached from anything we knew with the Old Republic or the Galactic Empire. They’re more a bunch of impudent interlopers than anything believable that emerged from the rebels’ victory in episode 6, and their Supreme Leader was too fictional for my liking. Star Wars is more science fantasy than fiction, where everything seems real, seems likely to exist, so being mindful of the living force is critical with creative expression. The main plot will be eerily familiar, and not told with the same finesse, except the real plot is the development of the new characters, for which the main plot does succeed in serving. Sadly, I don’t recall one single new piece of music in the film’s score. While it was all familiar and all superb, there was nothing memorable to take and pump through the hi-fi and annoy the neighbours.
This film succeeds because it successfully brings the viewer back into the Star Wars universe, as set three decades after Episode 6, and leaves a legacy for potentially mouth watering future episodes. The trick now will be for it to forge its own identity, relying less on nostalgia, if it’s to fulfil its destiny. It’s impossible to place it within the saga without more viewings and more time for reflection. There’s no anti-climactic feeling like after 1999’s Episode 1. Equally, there’s no effusive hysteria like after 1977’s Episode 4 or 1980’s Episode 5, or even the milder form after 2002’s Episode 2. Of course, we’re all older now, and not necessarily open to new ways of the force. Meditate on this I will.