You might have heard of Star Wars. It’s quite popular apparently. After ten long years, the hype train returns and it’s more powerful than you could possibly imagine. So, here’s the review for the seventh film in the franchise, for which the title seems more appropriate as a question – Star Wars: The Force Awakens? And yes, indeed it does awaken.
If you have yet to see any Star Wars film then firstly, what on earth are you doing with your life? Secondly, it’s highly recommended that you watch at least the original trilogy (that’s episodes 4, 5 and 6 to those of you that are uninitiated) before you watch the epic adventure that is The Force Awakens. Trust me, you will appreciate it a whole lot more and have a more comprehensive understanding of what’s going on. Episode 7 is littered with hilarious references to the originals that distinguish between fans and young padawans. If you find yourself hysterically laughing at certain scenes whilst the rest of the audience are sat in silence, then I can assure you that you’re not losing the plot, you’re just a bigger Star Wars nerd. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
Prior Star Wars experience will most definitely amplify any emotion the film conjures up. Be it intense joy or extreme sorrow or furious rage. In a sense J. J. Abrams gets full control of your excitement reins as he introduces returning characters spectacularly (something the prequel trilogy lacked greatly). It was a good move to introduce the old characters gradually in small, manageable portions. Harrison Ford specifically excels, showing us all that he hasn’t forgotten how to emit Han Solo’s charm and sass after 32 years. Thankfully, the old cast doesn’t outshine the new cast. Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn) are at the top of their game, portraying two instantly loveable characters from the get-go. The scavenger who can hold her own and a Stormtrooper with a conscience and a tendency to ‘fan-boy’ every time something awesome happens. We get to witness some actual character development this time around (another thing the prequels lacked)! In general the casting is superb. One unfortunate exception to this is Domnhall Gleeson as General Hux. A good actor here is wasted, simply because he doesn’t fit the role. He looks young and he doesn’t look sinister enough to wield the evil power he has. In a scene where he is rallying hundreds of Stormtroopers in a Hitler-esque Nuremberg-style ‘gathering’, it did not produce the desired effect; it was more comical than frightening. It’s a damn shame. The under-use of Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma) is also quite disappointing as she looks bad-ass in her armour. Hopefully she doesn’t turn out like Boba Fett and that both Hux and Phasma ameliorate in episodes 8 and 9. Hopefully.
Back to the positives though. With the returning cast comes masterful composer John Williams. I won’t pretend I know what fancy music terms such as allegro and lentando mean. All I know is that Williams never disappoints. He further enhances the tense battles with his new score, and then will suddenly hit you right in the feels with the nostalgic themes he first fabricated in episode 4. And it’s not just the music that transcends the force. The complete sound design team should be applauded. The ignition of the first lightsaber vibrating through the room will give you goose bumps. The roar of the TIE fighters amongst explosions and blaster fire is indescribable. The classic Wilhelm scream as a poor fool gets obliterated and thrown across the set. The sound design and music is easily one of the best things about The Force Awakens.
It’s a difficult film to criticise, the good massively outweighs the bad. But no film is perfect. Is it better than the original trilogy? Perhaps. Perhaps not. The plot could be criticized as following ‘A New Hope’ too closely. Obviously there are differences, but there are a ridiculous number of similarities which makes one wonder if they are going to play it safe with the next two episodes. The prequel trilogy was completely different and thus took a risk, receiving mixed to mostly negative reviews. I don’t want to spoil the story so if you want further discussions then you’re going to have search your feelings and find me around university.
All in all, a must-see for any Star Wars fan. This is the film you’re looking for. A few limitations in plot and casting/character use but in no way does this ruin the film or stop it from being one of the best films of the year. Despite being 20 years old, episode 7 has made me dust off my lightsabers and go around force choking family members (do not this try at home, I am a trained professional). I wholeheartedly await episodes 8 and 9 and will fan girl for the next four years until they arrive.
– SAMAN IZADYAR