Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Contrary to my expectation Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an extremely entertaining and enjoyable movie. It manages to balance the needs of all interested parties. Fans get epic battles, iconic hardware and dependable performances from established and cherished characters. The new cast dovetail into the story with ease and are engaging. The torch is past from old to new seamlessly. There is humour, pathos and genuine tragedy to be found in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it’s there because all involved clearly love and respect the franchise but also understand what makes good cinema. Fandom tempered by professional film making. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.
There are times when the movie seems more like a reboot of Episode IV but then as soon as you feel yourself thinking this way it does something different and wrong foots the viewer. It can also be argued that historical mistakes are often repeated thus making some plot elements in The Force Awakens quite plausible. It is also very clear that not all plot points will be clarified immediately. Disney obvious intends this to be a franchise of some length and the answers too many of the questions that arise will obviously be forthcoming later on. Who exactly is Supreme Leader Snoke? How did The First order come to power? Why is Ackbar still only and Admiral? The list goes on but this movie does enough to fill the most important gaps in our knowledge.
There is a lot of humour in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and it is pitched just right and hits the mark. Han Solo naturally has all the best line and his continuous banter with Chewbacca is an absolute delight. Harrison Ford simply owns the screen from the moment he appears. Furthermore there is a great deal of depth and nuance to his performance when you look beyond the one liners. If only this franchise had passed to Disney twenty five years earlier and we had had more films about the adventures of Hans and Chewie. Sadly this was not to be but you can see the great potential that could have been when watching Episode VII.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the new bad guy Kylo Ren played by Adam Driver. Ren is far from a two dimensional villain and it becomes clear quite quickly that there is far more behind his journey to the dark side and his personal conflict. The third act of the movie even goes so far as to flirt with Shakespearean tragedy but due to the expert way the writers Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams, Michael Arndt handle the story it works surprisingly well. I would also like to point out how easy it was too warm to Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Despite having very specific roles to play in the structure of the story, their narratives play out quite organically and don’t feel too contrived.
As you would expect from a movie of this calibre and budget the effects work and production design our outstanding. A lot of the aliens and background characters are physical effects and all the better for it. If I did have to voice a criticism it would be that Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis in yet another motion captured performance, seemed a little too “computer generated”. Once again John Williams has created a score that effortlessly embellishes the story and emphatically declares that you are most definitely watching a Star Wars movie.
I could continue and reference many other aspects of the movie that I enjoyed; BB-8 and the classic droids for example. But it’s difficult to work within a non-spoiler framework, so instead I will try and summarise why Star Wars: The Force Awakens has exceeded my expectations and is populist entertainment of the highest quality. J.J. Abrams has found a way to cater to as many tastes as possible. By providing a fresh perspective we get a sequel that reaches back to the past and satisfies our sense of nostalgia while still managing to be bold and new. Furthermore none of this is at the expense of the narrative. Mind you considering that Disney paid $3 Billion for this franchise and have spent over $200 Million on this movie alone, were they really going to cock it up? Therefore Star Wars: The Force Awakens is genuinely recommended by Contains Moderate Peril because it has proven that populist movies can be entertaining, spectacular and still dramatically powerful.