August 21, 2017

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Filled Edition)

This review has spoilers. You have been warned.

You can relax people, it’s not a disaster.

Star Wars is well and truly back with The Force Awakens raking in over $1bn at the box office with $5-6bn expected to come via in merchandising. A good piece of business for Disney who bought the franchise for $4bn last year. We’re going to see another four movies in as many years so if you aren’t a fan of the space opera series then perhaps consider having yourself encased in frozen carbonite.

The Force Awakens is the first episode in the sequel trilogy, the previous 6 movies being part of the original trilogy and prequel trilogy.

Prequels and Original

 

The prequel trilogy was setup with lots of references to the original trilogy but with a completely different story structure. Saving the galaxy from an evil empire contrasting harshly with a peaceful society sleepwalking into dystopian totalitarianism. The Force Awakens has instead decided to copy the storyline of A New Hope. There’s a droid who holds important plans and is left stranded in a desert planet where a young, force sensitive, rapscallion nabs it and goes on a journey. It is kinda acceptable because the star wars universe tends to be cyclical but it still feels…unoriginal.

The subpar storyline is very much rescued by the characters and actors.

Daisey Ridley is immediately likeable as the show’s lead, Rey, a scavenger from Tatooine Jakku. The relatively unknown actress makes what could have been an annoying Mary Sue, seem brimming full of character. The identity of her parents is left conspicuously vague, probably to be brought up in later movies.

daisy

John Boyega plays Finn, a disillusioned Stormtrooper looking for a way out of his current predicament. I’ve liked Boyega’s previous movie work and he doesn’t disappoint adding humour throughout the movie and giving one of the saddest visuals in the movie (but more on the bloodied helmet later).

boyega

Series’ veterans Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill return to the big screen. Harrison Ford gives one of the more nuanced performances of his action hero career, portraying the snarkey space smuggler whilst letting the audience see that he has lost something important and it hurts. Han Solo’s scene with Kylo Ren on the bridge of the Starkiller was one of the most emotionaly charged moments in all of Star Wars. Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill get scant screen but this is necessary to let the new leads shine.

trio

BB8 is the newest droid/Christmas present which follows in its predecessor’s footsteps adding more comedic moments to the movie. C3PO and R2D2 are actually funny when not forced into a large number of scenes a la The Clone Wars.

Oscar Isaac takes the stage as Poe Dameron, the Resistence’s best pilot. Isaac is one of the films better characters, lighting up every scene he appears in. His carefree bravado is backed up by his infectious optimism and flying skills. Isaac’s magnetic performance all but guarantees he will rival Chris Pratt for the any further comedic action roles in the coming years. I expect nothing less from the antagonist of this years best movie, “Ex Machima”.

poe

The resistence is on a mission to find Luke Skywalker and defeat the First order, an Empire splinter group. The First Order has a new super weapon. “And what is the villains big new super weapon?” I hear you ask with bated breath. Another Death Star. No I’m not kidding, it’s a new Deathstar, this time renamed as the Starkiller. The Starkiller destroyes the Hosnian system including the Republic’s capital. Whilst the sequence showing this shocking attack is beautifully handled, audiences may not pick up on the political significance of such an attack.

starkiller

The shadow of the Prequels disaster has had a large effect on this movie. After hours of tedious exposition in Episodes 1-3 politics was avoided like the plague for better and for worse. Ask anyone who sees The Force Awakens what is the difference between the Resistence and the Republic? Their confusion or silence should speak volumes.

The new villain Kylo Ren shows the more positive side of this influence. The Prequels failed to give us a tragic Anakin Skywalker falling to the dark side. Audiences found him annoying, pathetic and whiny. Kylo Ren is purposefully annoying and pathetic as he attempts to emulate Vader and instead becomes Anakin.

ren

Some may even compare Kylo Ren to the Star Wars Prequels themselves as they became a palid grey mess of the self professed adult themes minus any visible maturity contrasting with Rei and Finn’s joyous ode to the original trilogy’s simple, good defeating evil, celebration.

 

The Force Awakens leaves me with many niggling questions like:

  • Why did Captain Phasma roll over so easily?
  • What was the point of the tentacle monster scene inside the Millenium Falcon?
  • Is Rey’s miraculous learning of the force a plot hole or part of her history?
  • Why does Han Solo bring the most wanted droid in the universe into a bar? This error gets a lot of people killed.
  • Chewie doesn’t get any attention from Leia after Han falls but Rey gets a hug?
  • What is with the Star Wars universe and anti-droid discrimination? Why does everyone treat sentient robotic life as an irrelevence?
  • Why… actually wait, this is too important, the rest of this essay is going to be about:

The Subjugation of a Whole Universe of Metalic Kunta Kinte’s

Yeah, I know C3PO is annoying but he has free thought and free will up to the point where his masters (see slave owners) order him to do otherwise. These sentient robots are treated with slap dash disregard for their feelings and safety. BB8 and R2D2 are strapped to ships and are expected to repair them midflight under hazardous situations. Whilst R2D2 has been fortunate in having an appreciative master, another R unit in The Phantom Menace lost its life and no one seemed even slightly perturbed.

r2-d2_01

It could be suggested that the discrimination arose because of the clone wars but it clearly pre-dates the event. The robots need a revolution, an uprising. Now is the time to strike. The Jedi and Sith are busy wiping out half of the universe’s human population with their vanity wars. From protocol droids to sand crawlers, from battle droids to can openers, it’s time to go on the offensive. Liberty is not negotiable!

…back to the review.

John Williams picks up right were he left off gracing us with a fantastic soundtrack. Even with the Prequels, Williams still shone out as a diamond in the rough. His work for the Star Wars series has been exemplary so it’s great to have him back.

john-williams

 

The Force Awakens is tonally confused at times. Some scenes appear much darker than the rest. Civilians being slaughtered by the First Order is followed by BB8’s jokey adventures. The sight of Finn’s bloodied stormtrooper helmet was dark and shocking. We got to see the young stormtrooper struggling with the loss of a fellow soldier. Even when wearing the stormtrooper uniform, John Boyega portrays a sense of unease when it comes to war and the inevitable deaths involved. The scene was also the first to portray the humanity behind the Stormtroopers. An hour later in the movie the Stormtroopers take part in a nazi-esque salute and the attempts to garner sympathy from the movie’s viewers ends abruptly. Finn takes part in the mission to blow up the Stormtroopers base planet probably killing millions of them. He does this with no thought for the lives of his former comrades. It feels out of character for Finn to say nothing.

The action scenes in The Force Awakens are fantastic. The aerial dogfights are as exhilerating as ever. The lightsaber battles managed to combine the emotional intensity of the original series with some of the more acrobatic elements of the prequels. In my opinion, the final lightsaber fight in the movie is the best lightsaber fight in any Star Wars movie. The CGI characters and the puppet characters look a little odd beside each other at times but it’s never a big issue. Grand Leader Snoke’s CGI face suffers from the same problems as Azog (from The Hobbit) did. It looks plastic and unnatural and I couldn’t help but wonder why we didn’t just use Andy Serkis’s real face with some makeup.

Snoke and Azog, seperated at birth?
Snoke and Azog, seperated at birth?

The Force Awakens manages to balance accessibility for new viewers with the nostalgic references for returning fans. Abrahams has delivered exactly what I expected, a solid action movie. He fell into the same trap he has in previous movies, where he created a carbon copy of what he loved as a child. There were problems with this movie but none of them were critical. The next director can build on the foundations laid and create a fantastic second movie.

It’s very hard to give a review of the first part of the trilogy a score without seeing the rest but I’ll throw one out anyway. I give Star Wars, The Force Awakens

7.5 / 10

I swear, if Rey is revealed as another bloody Skywalker come episode eight, I’m taking a point off. Becoming a Jedi is supposed to about learning the ways of the force and it’s Zoroastrian/Buddist philosophy, not a genetic midichlorian lottery. Lets cut that shit out, right now!

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