I had pre written a couple hundred words about how I grew up with Star Wars and what it means to me, along with some comments on the prequel films and how they had left a shadow of caution over our excitement for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Instead I have cut that in favour of giving you my lasting impression of the new film. No filler, just straight to the (SPOILER FREE) review.
Watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens felt like coming home. Unlike the prequel Episodes, what I watched really felt like a Star Wars film.
It has some faults, I’ll tell you that now, but it was very nearly Star Wars perfection. I was asked by a friend to rate it from Phantom Menace to Empire Strikes Back, and whilst I would like to say it told the scale there were a couple of things that make me place it between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi.
As the opening titles began to roll I thought back on some of the fears I had for Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Was BB-8 going to be some tooth rottingly sweet, atypical Disney sidekick? Were we going to be subjected to some species or character that reaches Jar-Jar Binks levels of awfulness? Will I be sitting through 2 hours and 16 minutes of CGI and Green Screen overload?
(The answers to these questions are: a little but not as bad as I feared. No, thank god and NO, THANK GOD!)
J.J Abrams has certainly put his stamp on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and you can tell that it’s one of his films, but he’s brought the franchise back to what it should be and not just given us a repeat performance of the disappointing prequels.
Abrams had already proven to fans that he can handle a much beloved series with his Star Trek offerings, even though the 2nd film was quite up to snuff in most fan’s eyes that can’t be put entirely on his shoulders. Abrams was really able to give us the Star Wars film we needed and you’ll be thankful to learn that Star Wars: The Force Awakens has much the same dirty, gritty look and feel to it as the originals and not too much of the lens flare that Abrams blinded us with in the Trek films.
I mentioned how this feels like a true Star Wars film, and it really does. Although you’ll have to wait a bit for the first proper lightsaber battle (not that we don’t see them, we do!) you’ll not notice that issue thanks to all the jaw dropping dog fights – as well as the amazing chases and battles that happen on foot.
Personally I felt as if, between these great fight scenes, we’re following too many different character’s story arcs throughout the film, it’s not something that really gets in the way of the story overall but it does seem a little like too many characters are fighting for our attention.
I was glad to see that the introduction of our old favourites was handled quite well though. Harrison Ford’s iconic Han Solo brings the usual vagabond, smuggler charm to the film as well as some classic Han one liners and humour with Chewie.
But speaking of the comedy element this brings me to one of the faults I found with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I felt like the majority of the humorous moments were forced and didn’t sit well within the film, it grated on my nerves if I’m being honest and I wish they had been left on the cutting room floor.
These issues play into why I cannot say this film is pure, perfect Star Wars for me. The interactions and character development of the new main cast had the obvious and heavy handed stench of The Mouse on them. This is true for a number of scenes, especially in the first half of the film. Lucky this is less noticeable in the rest of the film but you do get the occasional reminder that you are, essentially, watching a Disney property.
We got some rather cheesy scenes between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), as well as in their moments apart or with the original lot.
Although you can forgive some of the forced chemistry between Rey and Finn you may find it harder to swallow the disingenuous interactions between Poe (Oscar Issac) and Finn. It’s not truly awful, it just seemed like I was watching a farce and doesn’t happen or flow naturally to me. That’s not to say they aren’t a guilty BrOTP of mine now.
When it comes to Rey I found her to be so earnest and socially deprived and a little awkward that I found myself forgiving of her transgressions in regards to forced scenes of development and Disneyfication and focused on the truly interesting parts of her character arc.
I was very glad to see that a lot of scenes were shot on location or on sets that had been made and were real, instead of the over dependence of green screen we got with the prequels. It looked like as many of the droids and different aliens as they could be were all physical creations, CGI was used sparingly and with good effect and we saw a return to use of puppets and prosthetics.
The cinematography from Daniel Mindel in the film is amazing and was utterly beautiful to observe, it went perfectly hand in hand with the thrilling orchestral score by John Williams. I ONLY suggest staying through all the end credits in order to listen to uninterrupted scoring, which left me filled with joy when I did just that.
After having mentioned the whiff of Disney making certain elements feel very heavy handed, I feel I should give some word of warning: J.J Abrams does give fans some lovely visual homages to the original films but I found myself very quickly feeling like things were less of a subtle nod to fans and getting more and more like a violent head shake. Yes J.J, we get it. You want us to know that you’ve seen the original films, we’ve seen them too and it’s gotten to the point where you’ve more or less ripped off certain plot points.
Overall Star Wars: The Force Awakens made me excited about the franchise again.
It made me want to pilot spaceships and zoom around amongst a back drop of stars again, made me desperately long for a lightsaber again, just like I did when I was a child watching the original films on VHS at home.
This film has reawakened not only the Force but also my love and passion for Star Wars and I honestly cannot wait to see where the new films take us. I’m already excited for the next one, whenever that will be released.
To repeat what I said at the start of this review, Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels like coming home.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released the 17th of December, 2015
GS Rating: 4/5
GS Blogger: Fia @madame_fifi