Books, Film & TV Thursday, December 17th

Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens

Ten-and-a-half years after we saw what we all believed to be the end of the epic Star Wars franchise, a seventh instalment is finally upon us. Christmas truly comes early this year for fans of the saga, and with the film under new management for the first time in its history, many have been hopeful during its build up. Being a huge fan of what has come before and wildly excited by what is now to follow, seeing the midnight release was a no-brainer for me. So, without further ado nor a spoiler in sight, here is what a true fan of Star Wars thought of the newest movie.


The opening sequence sets a precedent for the high-octane action which features throughout the entirety of the film. We also dive straight into the storyline, with not a mention of trade disputes or Gungan politics in sight. 

Oscar Isaac is the first of the new line-up of actors to make an on-screen appearance, and instantly gives you confidence in his character. Po Dameron is a pilot for the Resistance (formerly known as the Rebellion), and despite being well aware of his quality in their ranks he remains respectful, positive and humble throughout, truly representing their morals. When we get to see him showing off his skills in an X-Wing, it is truly something to be marvelled at as well.

It's not long before the rest of the newbies announce their presence, each doing so with much greater prowess than their classic cast counterparts ever managed to. Adam Driver's new dark side fanatic of a villain is far more menacing than his idol Darth Vader when he appears on screen.

Reminiscent of Anakin Skywalker following his initial turn to the dark side in Revenge of the Sith, his performance never ceases to leave you asking just how far he might go.

In stark contrast, Finn is a character who is well aware of where his moral code lies, and is constantly out to do what is right. Anyone who was foolish enough to question John Boyega's casting in a leading role will have their mouth firmly locked shut after the first hour of footage, and probably even before then.

Rey finds her place as a more serious but no less caring and compassionate hero than Finn. She is a no nonsense character, and Daisy Ridley's portrayal does credit to the ever growing debates about women's' roles in the film industry.
For an actor who has previously seen much smaller roles, you would not know it, with Ridley alongside Driver's Kylo Ren stealing the show for me.
The rapport of all four actors however plays out perfectly, and every one of them thoroughly deserves to be there. JJ Abrams deserves credit too for bringing together this cast and directing them as near perfectly as he's done. If this is what the future of Star Wars is to look like then the future is bright.

Of course, new characters were not the only ones in the spotlight for The Force Awakens, with Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher returning to reprise their former roles as the poster trio of Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. Of the three, Ford has a far greater amount of screen time, alongside Peter Mayhew back as Solo's companion Chewbacca.
The two reprise their roles to the spot, with outspoken critic of Star Wars Ford giving his all for the cameras.
Mayhew is perhaps more convincing than ever, with Chewbacca really finding some depth in this movie.
Fisher doesn't quite have the charismatic gusto she once did, and in truth makes little difference in her appearance. Hamill excitingly commands the screen as ever.StarWarsep7 03

There is a fantastic supporting cast behind these leads as well, with Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux and Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke bringing back the believability of the evil Empire-turned-First Order.
Others perhaps didn't necessarily need or want to be there, or so it felt. Anthony Daniels gave a less convincing performance of C-3PO than what fans will be used to, and Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma was given a lesser role than we might have hoped for.
As a whole however, the acting in The Force Awakens is strong, and the majority of those involved deserve great credit for it. BB-8 is also a very cool guy indeed.

Without giving away any details, the story of The Force Awakens is exciting and interesting, drawing clear inspiration from others in the franchise and moulding this into something for the new generation of fans to enjoy.
It also felt as though it left a lot of questions unanswered by the close, and could easily have worked up to the three hour mark without viewers losing interest to answer these.
As a result, the film lacks some of what might have made it perfect, and in essence feels much more like a build up to something greater than a huge, classic blockbuster in its own right.

Cinematography hits a new high for the Star Wars franchise in The Force Awakens. Everything is spectacular, from the set design to the combat sequences both in terms of practical and CGI effects.
Blaster fire looks and feels more legitimate than it has in the past.
Chewie's bowcaster sees some much needed action rather than sitting on his back the whole time, and it certainly makes an entrance in its own right!
Lightsaber combat in this film is perfect too, finding an ideal balance between not looking like a dance and not happening at a snail's pace. Everything feels more intense, more real...

Were there any problems with the film? Well, one or two, yes.
At one point Finn says "hell" despite Star Wars not being overtly Christian, and this is just careless scriptwriting. It may have been left out of this review as a personal gripe had my brother not noticed it too.

The scripting can also try to be too funny at times as well. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and I appreciate it as much as the next person, but here it is somewhat forced down your throat.
There is also a lot of stating the obvious when plot points are already quite apparent or at least are not difficult to figure out without being told.
The most annoying thing was that nobody seems to have learned any lessons. It is hard to elaborate without giving away plot, but there is very often a sense of "why is this happening?" and "haven't we seen this before?".

For the most part, The Force Awakens is a solid return for the franchise. It paves the way for Star Wars' long-term continuation, but as a result it sometimes lacks its own, personal merits.
The new cast is a fantastic on-screen ensemble which will see no complaints from audiences who will be dying to see them return in 2017.
Some of the veteran cast also put in a solid effort to make the film a success, and can still command the screen and their characters.

A little bit of a tidy up in its delivery and a more clear cut storyline and the next film will be huge. After this one, I for one cannot wait to see it!

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