To call me a Star Wars fan would be a gross understatement. Like most children growing up in the late ‘90s/early 2000s, I was absolutely engrossed in the world of Jedi, Sith lords, and the Force. Having been 6 years old when the prequel trilogy started with The Phantom Menace, I was exposed to the original trilogy of episodes IV-VI by my caring mother in between episodes I and II. While I loved the prequel trilogy as a child, growing older I like many others grew to resent the overly childish, poorly written trilogy of Anakin Skywalker, and preferred the much better executed, more mature original trilogy. Having lived to face the disappointment of mediocre Star Wars films, I’ve been excited but wary since hearing that Disney obtained the rights to the series and planned to set a course on yet another trilogy. Today, having finally seen The Force Awakens, I can safely say that fans can rejoice. Star Wars is great again.
Sitting in the theatre as the opening title crawl scrolled, giving us a summary of the 30 years of backstory that took place between episodes VI and VII, I immediately felt the chills go down my spine, and an ear-to-ear smile break out on my face. The John Williams composition, the familiar scroll superimposed over the vast openness of space, all preceded by those words, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…” This was the Star Wars that I remembered. And this feeling of childlike glee is what would set the tone for the remainder of the film.
The film is chock full of nostalgic goodness, that will make any long time fan of the franchise scream with joy. From the familiar characters popping up, to references of the original trilogy, and even the familiar beats of the story that are reminiscent of Episode IV, A New Hope, this film is a much needed reminder of just how fun a Star Wars film can be when not bogged down by talk of ancient prophecy’s and trade negotiations. This doesn’t make the film inaccessible, however. The story is well fleshed out to stand on its own without needing to know all of the background information from the previous films of the series. Something important, as this film is likely some of the first exposure an entirely new generation of fans will be receiving to the franchise. Moving along from just how nostalgic this film made me, however, let’s take a look at the film on a technical level.
Without getting into spoilers, the film is distinctly a Star Wars film. As mentioned earlier, the film takes some major inspiration from the original trilogy, right down to the beats of the film being very reminiscent of Episode IV. Despite this, director J.J. Abrams adds his own style to the film, helping it stand out as a more “modern” Star Wars film despite the inspiration from the originals. The characters are all solid, and not just the established heroes from the Galactic Civil War. While it’s fun to see Han and Leia back together again, Chewy sitting co-pilot in the Millennium Falcon, and C-3P0 back to his helpful if not slightly overbearing ways, the new cast of characters do their best to establish themselves, and they do it well. Finn and Poe are great both in their scenes together and apart, and Captain Phasma is incredible during her short time on screen. Adam Driver gives us an excellent antagonist in Kylo Ren, a surprisingly complex antagonist who gives us more than your standard Star Wars villain is used to. I’d go as far to say as he was my second favorite character in the film, keeping me most interested in his character, second only to the leading lady herself.
I personally believe Daisy Ridley steals the show in her portrayal of Rey, providing an excellent female lead who manages to avoid most tropes that typically befall the women in these films. She’s strong and independent, not relying on her male counterparts to come to the rescue. She’s an interesting and compelling character, who leaves just enough of her back story unknown to keep fans speculating and talking until Episode VIII is released in 2017. Among this talented cast of both familiar and new faces, I think it’s safe to say that Ridley will be the “new face” of the next generation of Star Wars.
While I’ve been singing the praises of this film, it does have some flaws as most films do. The dialogue, while good for the most part, is still very clunky in some parts, and makes a point to tell us many things that could be simply shown on screen. That being said, it’s still far better than the dialogue that George Lucas gave us in Episodes I-III. In addition, the story while good did seem a bit forced and scattered in parts. Finally, as much as I like the nostalgic feel that the film exudes, this is the beginning of a new trilogy, so while I feel this strategy worked for one film, the next two films are going to need to work hard to give us something different and interesting to keep the fans interested and giving it the positive feedback that Episode VII got. While these are flaws in the film, they weren’t enough to ruin my experience, and won’t ruin the experience for a die hard fan.
In all, J.J. Abrams has brought life back to the franchise. The film is much more than a sequel. It’s an invitation to a new generation, to experience Star Wars the same way generations before them did. Both as this invitation and as a continuation of the established story, the film succeeds. I’m giving The Force Awakens a perfect 5/5. The characters, story, and references to the previous films are enough to keep the most diehard fans entertained, and interesting enough to introduce a new generation of Jedi to the Force.