Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an epic battle ensued between the Jedi and the Sith, which, decades later, led to the great war between the Rebels and the Empire; and it all began with the name Skywalker.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, much like its predecessors, is no different. Directed by J.J. Abrams, the seventh instalment of the iconic film franchise dates back to 1977 and is very much a film about inter-galactic war, flowing on from the never-ending Skywalker family drama.

The Force Awakens takes us far into the future, set long after the defeat of the Empire and the most powerful villain in the galaxy, Darth Vader; and opens with the tale of the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker, going missing and that a new threat to the galaxy has arisen out of the ashes of the Empire, known as the First Order.

Much like previous Star Wars films, we are thrust into an action packed opening sequence involving mass murder, guns blasting and the introduction of key characters including rebel pilot, Poe, his droid, BB-8, the good guy Stormtrooper, FN-2187 (who later goes by the name Finn) and of course, the film’s baddie, Kylo Ren, a knock off version of Darth Vader.

In almost an instant we are also introduced to Rey, a scavenger girl living alone on Jakku, trading in scraps for morsels of food. Many Star Wars fans might recognise the similarities of these Rey and Jakku scenes with the scenes of young Anakin and Luke Skywalker on the planet Tatooine. In fact, throughout The Force Awakens, many scenes are almost reminiscent of that in previous Star Wars films. Examples of these include the surroundings of Takodana being almost similar to Naboo in terms of scenic beauty, the hustle and bustle of the castle owned by Maz Kanata being like a mirror image to that of Jabba the Hut’s residence in Tatooine (you know, that iconic scene of an enslaved Princess Leia in her golden bikini) and the scene between Han Solo and Kylo Ren being an almost identical remake of the crucial Luke Skywalker – Darth Vader, “I am your father” scene.

These parallels between The Force Awakens and the previous six Star Wars films does not end with scenery and surroundings. I found Rey’s relationship with BB-8 and Finn to be very much like Luke’s relationship with R2-D2 and Leia’s relationship with Han Solo. The makers of The Force Awakens were certainly clever in hinting, not-so-subtly, of the familial relationships and ties between all the characters. Despite the fact that Finn and Poe don’t seem to be related in any way to any of the original characters, they do possess similar characteristics and charms to Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. The character of Rey, though, is a bit of a mystery. She’s very much like ten year old Anakin Skywalker and a young Luke Skywalker pre-Jedi but is also feisty like Leia. Questions as to who she really is certainly is raised throughout the entire film, to which, many viewers will likely assume her place in the Skywalker family by the end of the film. However, is she even a Skywalker? Perhaps she is, perhaps she isn’t. The creators have essentially left it up to us to decide, for now.

The Force Awakens is entertaining, and has a solid plot including family betrayal, lust for power, and ultimately the yearning to belong. The villain of the film, Kylo Ren, comes across as a slightly immature character, with a large chip on his shoulder of not amounting to the greatness of his predecessor, Darth Vader. His lust to finish what Darth Vader started stems from the seduction of the dark side, as his true name and character is revealed. Like Vader, whom we all know to be the once good-hearted Jedi, Anakin Skywalker, we are told of Kylo Ren’s suffering  from the inner turmoil between being good and joining the dark side. The ministrations and persuasions of Lord Snoke proved highly influential to Kylo Ren’s fall, much like that of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Siddious’ hand in Anakin’s downward spiral toward evil.

What I enjoyed about The Force Awakens was of course the return of original characters Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, C3PO and R2-D2. Han Solo’s wit and charm still remains and Leia comes across as being a lot more mature and maternal, something that was quite nice to see on screen. In addition, it was a nice feeling knowing that despite all they’ve been through, the pair still share that special connection that we first saw in the original trilogy. It was also incredibly exciting to see the Millennium Falcon again, which appears to be much larger than I remember. Chewbacca and C3PO, to me personally, were as annoying as ever, not so much in terms of character but their voices. I was never a fan of the Wookie growl and C3PO is too much of a know-it-all for my liking. I suppose that’s exactly how they’re meant to be, though.

While the original cast’s return was great, I quite like the new characters of The Force Awakens. Rey, in particular, was intriguing as a character. Not knowing who she is, where she comes from and only going on assumptions was tough as I prefer revelations and that “ahhh, now I see” feeling. Rey’s discovery of the force was seamless and her attachment to Han Solo was very much like Luke’s relationship with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Speaking of Obi-Wan Kenobi, I have to admit, he’s a character I never liked. If I had to find someone to blame for all of the Skywalker problems, I’ll blame him. I’ll rant on that another time.

The graphics in this film should definitely not go unnoticed. I watched it on a standard 2D screen and it was amazing! Space looked beautiful, the graphics making the entire galaxy appear realistic. Fighter plane fights and blasting scenes popped with bright colours and were captivating. Trust me, you’ll definitely want to watch this in IMAX if possible. Imagine epic inter-galactic war scenes coming out of the screen and appearing very, very real. Perhaps, I’ll watch the film a second time but in IMAX instead.

What I definitely was not a fan of was Kylo Ren. As a villain, he was pathetic. He didn’t appear to have any kind of motivation other than to be exactly like Darth Vader. He appeared childish, and unlike a mastermind villain that I’d expected him to be. His frantic hissy fits whenever things didn’t go his way was proof of his lack of maturity, not just as a villain but as a person. Even his name and appearance felt like it lacked a certain “oomph”. He certainly came across as a little boy playing at being a great and powerful villain.

Kylo Ren is depicted in the film as a mini-Vader, without the cool and without anything truly memorable to remember him by other than his most cowardly and soul-less moment in the film where he commits the most heinous of acts and, of course, his interesting looking lightsaber. That’s just my opinion though, as I’m very much a Vader and Anakin Skywalker fan. I felt Anakin’s descent into darkness was a much more compelling story. This certainly could have been done better in terms of Kylo Ren’s story. The film revealed so much about him so early on in the film that I was left disappointed that there was no real shocking revelation. We find out how he fits into the grand scheme of things less than an hour into the film and his face is revealed in the most unimpressive manner, again at an odd scene in the movie.

Perhaps the next film may delve into Kylo Ren’s past a bit more than what is revealed in The Force Awakens and maybe, just maybe, this will allow him to become harder, crueller and a true evil worthy of the name Darth.

Of course, I can’t not mention the most jaw-dropping moment in the film. Due to the many, many, many spoilers that was posted all over the internet, I wasn’t surprised and certainly wasn’t shocked. However, I still can’t believe it happened. The characters’ own reactions were difficult to watch and added to the “how could they??” reaction I had.

The Star Wars franchise, on close scrutiny, really is a long drawn out family affair and drama surrounding the Skywalker family, with bits and pieces like corrupt leaders and other villains playing a part in creating a captivating film. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the same but does so in a way that is much more modern, current and interesting. Using mirror image scenes brought about a thrill and unexpectedness which added to the film’s appeal, especially to hard-core Star Wars fans. The film certainly did a decent job in not revealing everything, setting up further questions and room for more movies in the future, in which I certainly hope to learn more about who Snoke is and what happened between the Empire’s defeat and the rise of the First Order.

 

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