Director: J. J. Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max Von Sydow
Run Time: 135 mins
(POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD)
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is the long anticipated 7th entry into the Star Wars canon and is a direct sequel to the original trilogy. At the helm is ‘Star Trek’ director J. J. Abrams who has a very good track record. Whilst the sequel trilogy may not have received particularly great reviews, the original trilogy did and as this is a direct sequel to ‘Return of the Jedi’, the expectations here are sky-high. ‘The Force Awakens’ includes a combination of the original cast but also features a new cast, particularly in the form of newcomers John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, who have barely a credit to their name. The film is projected to do extremely well at the box office and possibly become the highest grossing film of all time and sequels and spin-off’s are already in the pipeline. If ‘The Force Awakens’ fails, Disney will need to rework their plans for this lucrative franchise.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is overall, a very good addition to the franchise and features many outstanding set-pieces and a formidable villain. It has an outstanding cast that have great chemistry, a blend of old and new cast members. The action sequences are enthralling and the film has a ‘Laurence of Arabia’ / ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ vibe to it which really works. The film is however extremely silly in parts and does feel a little ‘Disney-fied’ in its execution which is a bit of a shame. The story is also a little derivative of ‘A New Hope’ and feels a little too safe, save for its daring and gripping ending. When the film works, it’s outstanding, but it has its fair share of silliness and is perhaps a little long in its middle section.
The opening hour or so and the ending of the film is superbly crafted. The film’s pacing is pretty good, save for an overlong middle section and the ending leaves many questions for the audience and should provide a good basis for the sequels. J. J. Abrams again proves that he is a master at composing action sequences – the effects here are generally superb and it all feels very reminiscent of the original trilogy.
The main asset ‘The Force Awakens’ boasts is its wonderfully realised characters despite the fact that they have been written into a safe and over simplistic story. In terms of the old cast, Harrison Ford is really at home here and puts in a good performance. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia on the other hand simply looks as if she’s here for the money and her performance is quite uninspired. The new cast are absolutely outstanding and have a great chemistry together. Both John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are phenomenal here and have successfully completed the move to mainstream filmography. Oscar Isaac is solid here as Resistance X-Winger fighter pilot, Poe Dameron but is woefully underused. Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis play the supporting villains and are pretty solid but the pick of the cast is Adam Driver’s dangerous and unpredictable villain, Kylo-Ren. It is an outstanding piece of casting and he is perhaps one of the most memorable and formidable villains of the decade. He is developed extremely well and his tantrums are extremely effective into giving an insight into his personality. Driver deserves a lot of praise for his performance and it will be interesting to see where his character arc is developed in the sequels.
John Williams’ score is also a perfect blend of old themes and some new ones, particularly the themes for the new characters and at the end in a key sequence. The cinematography by Dan Mindel is solid and is very reminiscent of the original trilogy.
What’s particularly impressive about ‘The Force Awakens’ is its impressive and secretive marketing. The trailers didn’t reveal a lot of the film’s story and there are a lot of surprises to be had in store if you can avoid spoilers.
Overall, ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is a very good basis for the future and is an impressive blend of old and new. At times the film is edge-on-the-seat exciting but it does unfortunately become very silly a little too frequently. Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo-Ren is fantastic and is one of the most interesting and unpredictable villain of recent years. Episode 8 will be directed by Rian Johnson who has previously directed 2012’s ‘Looper’ which was very well received and will be released in May 2017. Before that, a spin-off ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ will be released in December 2016 and it will be directed by Gareth Edwards who directed 2014’s remake of ‘Godzilla’. J. J. Abrams has unfortunately stepped away from this franchise, perhaps a little too soon as he’s done a good job here and it is his best work yet. There is a lot of potential here for the future.