Star Wars The Force Awakens Review (SPOILERS)

I had a number of topics I was considering for this months blog post, and then I remembered Star Wars was coming out, and yeah this post was never gonna be about anything else. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and somehow haven’t already been spoiled, don’t read on until you’ve seen the film as I’ll be talking major spoilers. If you have seen the film, read on for my full review.

Okay, so the first important thing to note is that the film is no longer in prequel territory. No bland characters we don’t care about, no awful dialogue, and no CGI festival where every shot is on a green screen so everything looks washed out and awful. This film didn’t really have to do much to be better than Episodes 1 – 3, but we can rest easy that it is.

Let’s start off with the positives. Firstly, all of the new characters are excellent. The biggest risk when trying to expand an existing property is creating characters that no-one’s interested in, but frankly, the best parts of this film are with the new people. Don’t get me wrong, some of the scenes with Han and Chewie are great, but the film really works best during the character beats for the new cast. Po Dameron is extremely cool, if a little underused, Rey is intriguing, and Finn is very fun and interesting.

The winner of new characters, however, is Kylo Renn. This film managed to introduce a villain with the same backstory as Darth Vader (trained as a Jedi, fell to the dark side, is still conflicted by it), but did it better than the prequels and in about 1/5th of the screen time. Renn is a fascinating character, with a real presence on-screen (largely helped by Adam Driver’s excellent performance), and manages to be a villain we want to see more of, and want to hate. I’ve heard a few people that they didn’t like him because he’s too whiny, and throws temper tantrums, but frankly, that’s what makes him dangerous, and what makes him unlikable, which is sort of important for a villain.

A few people have called out Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke for being unnecessary CGI characters in a film largely void of them, but personally I thought they were very well done. They looked real enough, and it added a little bit of extra flavour in a film that had a lot of practical-effect aliens. Currently, Snoke seems a weird character in that he’s apparently some insanely powerful Sith master, and yet we’ve never heard of him before, and I really hope wherever they go with him in future films is more interesting than just ‘he’s the big bad because reasons’. Where did he come from? There’s speculation on the internet that he’s Darth Plaguis, and while I’d appreciate that, I don’t think general audiences will know who he is, so I’ll be surprised if they go that route.

Most of the films call backs to the original trilogy are handled well, with the introduction to the Millenium Falcon being a highlight, but the overall plot tends to fall into a retread of the old films, to the point where you know what’s going to happen in the third act, and I sort of wished they’d managed to come up with something a little more interesting than another death star (or at least saved blowing it up for later). It’s true that the attack on the death star, excuse me, ‘Starkiller base’, is just a backdrop to the real action – Han confronting his son, the lightsaber fight, Rey discovering her powers – but this is exactly what happened at the end of Jedi. It feels like the writers has plenty of cool ideas for new characters, but absolutely no idea what to do with the story, so they just cherry picked from the previous films.

Not that it doesn’t work, however. The action is exciting and well shot, and the character stuff at the forefront is excellent. The lightsaber battle in particular is fantastic – it feels visceral and cool, and you don’t know how it’s going to end. It then, of course, leads into the reveal of Luke at the very end. I think this was handled well enough, and the suspense it gives for the next film is incredible, but I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get any dialogue from him. It was also sad that we didn’t get a scene with Luke, Leia and Han together, as with Han dead we won’t get it in the new films either, but from a plot perspective I suppose we couldn’t have everything.

Han’s death scene was very well done, especially the way he touched his son’s face before falling, but the immediate aftermath felt like we didn’t really get to take in what just happened. There’s a lot of action, and then when we finally get the characters back to Leia, she walks straight past Chewie and hugs Rey, someone who is basically a stranger. That felt a little odd, and honestly I wanted to see a lot more rage from Chewie. He shot a bunch of dudes, but it would have been nice to see him just lose it and rip some dudes apart, really highlighting the feeling of loss. Any Star Wars fan was probably expecting Han to die anyway, as Harrison Ford has been calling for it to happen since Empire, but I feel like it would have hit home a little harder with more reaction time for the characters.

Before finishing, I also want to mention how nice it was that this is one of the funniest Star Wars films to date, and that the humour was extremely well done. Just like in the original trilogy, the funniest scenes come from character interaction, rather than just ‘the goofy droids do something wacky’. BB8 was very well handled, as a new droid that felt emotive without being childish or silly, and the use of C3PO and R2D2 was thankfully small and not too on the nose.

It feels important to point out the flaws in this film, as it certainly isn’t perfect (and lets face it, it was never going to live up to the hype surrounding it), but overall it was a great cinematic experience, and it set up the future films in a way that I’m really looking forward to see what happens next. I’m not quite sure how it rates yet compared to the other films, but I know I enjoyed it a lot. A lot of people have said it’s probably the best film behind A New Hope and Empire, but honestly I have a lot of fondness for Return of the Jedi. Wherever it rates, however, I feel like it’s a worthy successor to those films, and it felt really great to be going to the cinema to see Star Wars again.

Thanks for reading. Did you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on twitter (@heroicrant). And, because I’m a giant nerd and can’t pass up this opportunity to sign off…

May the force be with you.

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