As I sat in my theatre seat waiting for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to begin, I could feel my mind starting to have its own conflict between the Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force. The Light representing my excitement and passion for Star Wars, and the Dark expressing my desire to analyse and be critical of the film. I wouldn’t necessarily compare my hobby as an amateur film critic to that of a Sith Lord, but I certainly know how judging something can take the fun out it. But given the track record that Star Wars has, we do have to hold the most recent episode to a level of scrutiny that would be considered overkill for most other flicks. Even if there were something blatantly bad about the film I didn’t want to admit, I’d search my feelings and know it to be true. However as the last swell of John Williams’ iconic score played before the credits began, I felt like balance had been brought to the force. Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t perfect, but it’s an incredible start to a new Star Wars saga.
There’s a lot that’s familiar in The Force Awakens, and that’s the whole point. When you have three films that everyone loves and another three that everyone love to hate, you want to associate yourself with the positive. That’s perhaps the main reason the movie works well. Instead of being bogged down by talk of treaties and politics, we’re treated to the stuff that made us fall in love with Star Wars in the first place. Lightsaber duels, dogfights in space, droids, lots of lasers, these are the things that you need to focus on in Star Wars, and The Force Awakens certainly does.
Visually the film is stunning. Every effect is flawless, and every shot is a feast for the eyes. Surprisingly despite the chaos that can unfold during the fantastic space battles, It never feels overwhelming to the audience but appears well choreographed. Same can be said for the exciting lightsaber battles, especially with Kylo Ren’s new broadsword style lightsaber. Like so many others, I didn’t think much of the blade’s design, but seeing it in action gives me a little more faith in the new trilogy’s design choices. The movie is certainly eye candy, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any substance to the new chapter in the space opera.
As awesome as it would be to have a movie made up entirely of action sequences, part of what makes Star Wars great is the story. Force Awakens succeeds in this area, mostly. It’s predictable and even by the end you won’t be surprised at what transpires on screen, but it’s all classic star wars. A little cheesy? Yes, but that’s part of the fun. But despite all the nostalgia and great little homages to the series’ past, I’m looking forward to the new directions that the story will go in.
Even with the cheese, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has some pretty spectacular performances. While it goes without saying that Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford do an excellent job reprising their roles as Leia and Han respectively, the ones who steal the show are newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega as characters Rey and Finn. Ridley, in particular, does a stellar job, and I can’t wait to see her in future episodes. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the film’s main baddy, feels slightly lackluster. As is the case with Star Wars, the villains can be a bit one-dimensional, but Driver repeatedly doesn’t give the emotional range that is needed to bring additional depth to a character. Also, Gwendoline Christie’s performance as Captain Phasma feels slightly underwhelming, but that’s partially due to what seems to be an almost criminal lack of screen time. Perhaps in the next film, she’ll have a bigger role to play.
All in all. There’s a lot to love about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it’s not without it’s flaws. It manages to use what is familiar and brings us just enough new stuff to keep us satisied, though quickly we’re left wanting more. I’m certainly eager to see what this new era of Star Wars will bring. They’ve shown that they can see what works and what doesn’t for a Star Wars film, now they just need to try something new, and we might have a new classic on our hands.