This review does NOT contain spoilers.
I finally got a chance to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens this weekend and I loved every minute of it. It was one of the most anticipated films of this year and with so much hype around it, I was a little worried that it may not live up to the expectations but I needn’t have worried. It was the only film this year that I walked out of with a huge smile on my face. In my humble opinion, it was the ultimate feel-good film this year. It had high stakes, and it was smart and funny with loads of edge-of-your-seat exhilarating action. It was an absolutely delightful film.
One of the things that really stands out about the original trilogy is just how much fun they were. And that’s what really strikes you about The Force Awakens; it is a really fun film. This was such a pleasant change from the prequels, which were so dour and dull. There were so many extraneous plot points that really bogged those films down. The Force Awakens revived the charm of the original trilogy. There was also a good amount of nostalgia with the return of Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as General Leia Organa, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker respectively.
When I revisited the original trilogy, I noticed their thorough lack of cynicism and there was something very beautiful about that. In a world made more cynical, it is therefore, a real pleasure to see a film that is not cynical. Where the good guys are inherently decent and even the bad guys are redeemable. This kind of positivity and optimism is rare in films these days, which is why, a film like The Force Awakens is even more significant.
Full credit must be given to J.J. Abrams. The film is so wonderfully balanced. There is spectacular action with beautifully realised characters. The action in the film is especially thrilling. I was initially a little disappointed to learn that the film was in 3D, but having seen it, it was completely justified. The 3D really draws in the audience and makes them feel like they’re right in the middle of what’s happening. Abrams made excellent use of the 3D; it was a storytelling tool and not a gimmick as is so often the case.
The prequels were very CGI heavy and had a very clean almost sterile look about them, the widespread use of CG felt reductive and they lost the charm of the originals. They also felt removed from reality because of it. The Force Awakens brings back puppets and actual sets and the use of CG doesn’t overpower the characters. There is a tangibility to the film that was completely lacking in the prequels.
While it is a joy to see the original cast members return, the film also has a host of new faces. One of the major strengths of the film is that it doesn’t keep harping about Luke, Leia and Han. It introduces us to the new characters and they are what really make this film memorable. It would have been easy to lose these newer faces in the nostalgia surrounding the original trio but even in this Abrams manages to deliver brilliantly. The film is a clear handing over of the reins to the newer generation.
As I’ve stated earlier, the real strength of the film lies with the new characters: Finn and Poe with special mention for Rey and Kylo Ren. I really liked the new characters. They were so engaging that I found myself completely involved in their narrative. I wanted to know more about them and the film gave us just enough to whet our appetite.
John Boyega as the reformed Storm Trooper Finn, who has a change of heart and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the fierce Rebel Forces pilot were amazing. I only wish that we had seen more of Poe. Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata was the resident wise woman and was reminiscent of Yoda. Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma felt underused and frankly wasted. I am hoping that is rectified in the upcoming films. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke was suitably creepy, sinister and mysterious and evocative of Emperor Palpatine.
Then there was Rey, played brilliantly by Daisy Ridley. We know next to nothing about her except that she is scavenger from Jakku and has no family. Like the audience, she too doesn’t know where she comes from. We had a great female character in the form of Princess Leia in the earlier films but there were times when it felt like she was sidelined in favour of making Luke or Han appear more capable. That was most certainly not the case with Rey. She was resilient and capable of taking care of herself and was often more efficient than the men around her.
She displayed strength of character as well as vulnerability and Ridley portrayed that beautifully. I found her to be the most engaging character of the entire lot. 2015 has been an awesome year for kick-ass female characters from Charlize Theron’s Furiosa to Rebecca Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust and Rey is a welcome and deserved addition to that list.
Another aspect that made me happy was the presence of women in the film. In the original trilogy, the only female character of any importance was Leia but in The Force Awakens, there were so many more women around whether with the Rebel Forces or The First Order. That was a very refreshing and welcome change. The Force Awakens was a much more inclusive experience.
Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren was a conflicted antagonist. He is not so much a villain but someone who is on his way to becoming one. Like Rey, he too is on a journey that is far from over; he is slowly coming into his own. He straddled a fine line between seeming like a spoilt brat with anger management issues and someone who desperately craved not only to preserve Darth Vader’s legacy but also to take it further. And yet, there is conflict within him. The Original trilogy gave us an amazing and complex villain in Darth Vader and Ren is no different. I, for one can’t wait to see more of his evolution.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention BB-8, the new droid. Never have I come across a more adorable robot (with the exception of WALL-E) I am not sure whether BB-8 is male or female, but for now, we’ll assume it’s a he. He had such a distinct personality and was so emotive. I thought that R2-D2 was awesome, but Abrams outdid R2 with BB-8. I absolutely fell in love with him!
The Force Awakens does a great job of introducing new elements to the franchise while retaining enough elements of the original to stay true to its roots. And while existing fans of the franchise will love the film, it is also geared towards attracting newer audiences. Even if you haven’t seen those films or don’t want to, you will still enjoy The Force Awakens because it is a well-written, well-directed and wonderfully acted film. It has high stakes, engaging characters and an interesting plot that will keep you hooked to your seats. It is a thoroughly enjoyable ride and one that will not leave you disappointed.