JJ Abrams has successfully managed to do the impossible and live up to the hype surrounding, what has got the to be the most anticipated movie in years. I will try to be unbiased but that will be hard especially after how perfect it felt to me, and gave me a new hope (pun intended), that the direction of the new franchise is in very good hands. This review will contain Mild Spoilers.
The opening scroll is one of the best that has been made yet. It is concise, and brings you up to speed with what has happened to the galaxy in the last 30 years since we left it in Return of The Jedi. “Luke Skywalker has vanished. In his absence, the sinister FIRST ORDER has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. With the support of the REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa leads a brave RESISTANCE. She is desperate to find her brother Luke and gain his help in restoring peace and justice to the galaxy. Leia has sent her most daring pilot on a secret mission to Jakku, where an old ally has discovered a clue to …”
The old ally, played by the legendary Max Von Sydow, has a very brief role and nothing more than a glorified cameo, but it was great to see such a heavy hitter in the first few minutes itself. Oscar Isaac plays Poe Dameron, the daring pilot who has been sent to retrieve a map containing the location of Luke. What I really liked about this is, Star Wars wasn’t a movie that needed a very complicated plot, the prequels made that mistake, the scroll itself having words like ‘Trade Disputes’ muddied the elegance of the clean stories the original trilogy had. Poe Dameron will steal your heart, he’s the flamboyant, charming X-Wing flying, Black Leader. He’s the new Han Solo. Though he has very limited screen time here, he is great in them. I’m sure he will be playing a much larger role in the future movies. I liked how this movie shifted focus to show us the perspective of a Stormtrooper. John Boyega plays a disillusioned Stormtrooper FN-2187, who gets rechristened by Poe as Finn after helping him escape from the clutches of Kylo Ren. Kylo, played by the brilliant Adam Driver, is one of the more emotionally driven villains in recent memory, he is complicated and not just there to look cool, he has brilliant scenes of conflicting emotions and self doubt, especially one where he holds Vader’s damaged helmet up and monologues on how he was being tempted by the Light Side. It isn’t easy being in almost 3 of the best movies this year but Domhnall Gleeson has done that, he plays General Hux, a similar role to what Peter Cushing had played in A New Hope, and is the menacing face of The First Order. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is a super-star. She owns this movie, which is no mean feat, considering whom she is sharing the screen with. Her character is the centre of the new movie and has excellent chemistry with Finn. She lights up any scene that she is in. Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo, he does not sleep his way through the role, something that he has been accused of doing in recent years, he has quite a journey here and also is at the emotional core of the movie. His scenes with Carrie Fisher will pull at your heart strings and nostalgia waves will soak you. However it manages to stand alone and does not depends on getting cheap pops on the nostalgia factor, like how they found a perfect way to incorporate the Millenium Falcon in the story.
This movie makes a statement about how important practical effects, models, suits and make-up are. Star Wars should be grounded to a certain extent, even though it features planet-destroying, mini-planets, but at the ground level should feel a little gritty, I hate to bring it up again, but the prequels missed this memo. Thankfully JJ had the sense to recreate some of the magic here and it works. It feels real, especially BB-8, the scene stealing droid which will give R2-D2 a run for being the better droid, sorry C-3PO, protocol droids do not count, because they actually made a real life robot which runs in real life exactly the way as shown in the movie. The environment created on Jakku is the best example, superlative props and costumes. Best of luck trying to find Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt on Jakku. Hint: he’s very mean and does not like Rey a lot. The CGI is also very well done. The X-Wing-Tie Fighter battles are among the very best that have been shot and is must see in IMAX 3D. Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata is impressive, she plays a 1000 year old pirate, entirely in Motion Capture, I guess we’ll be seeing more of that in future movies as the master of Mo-Cap Andy Serkis plays Supreme Leader Snoke, a heavily deformed alien who is a Sith Lord training Kylo Ren. Was pleasantly surprised to see Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian, from The Raid Redemption movies as smugglers in search of Han Solo. However was a tad disappointed by how under-used Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma was here, she plays Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones and I hope she has a more fleshed out role in the next 2 movies.
Force Awakens is also the funniest Star Wars movie till date, however it’s not an endless array of quips like the Marvel movies or forced, it is just right. The triple pronged, lightsaber design on Kylo Ren, which had its fair share of critics will be silenced after watching how he uses it. Which brings me to the lightsaber battles themselves, they aren’t as flashy as the prequels, which they could have easily gone for, considering the technology that is available today. Instead JJ decides to make it feel like sword fights, as they were originally envisioned, before George Lucas turned Sith. They aren’t choreographed much, just dark, dirty, brutal fights which was refreshing. The ending on Starkiller Base, the Death Star equivalent here, might seem a bit familiar but I enjoyed the hell out of it. John Williams’ score is magnificent as always, the main theme has been modified a bit but chill-inducing nonetheless, it is easily among my Top 3 scores for this year.
The Force Awakens is a perfect launching point for the new franchise, I cannot wait to see what Rian Johnson, director of Looper and my favourite Breaking Bad episode, Ozymandias, does with the next movie.