Just over a year ago the first teaser trailer for Episode VII set the internet on fire. Fandom was at an all-time high and every day since then it seems that the anticipation has not stopped building. Many of us even began to question whether anything could live up to the hype. Well it turns out the answer is quite simple: STAR WARS IS BACK!
The Force Awakens is a wonderful film; one provides nonstop enjoyment blended with the perfect amount of nostalgia. At the epicentre of this triumph is JJ Abrams’ direction. The plot moves at an energetic pace, the characters are human (apart from those that are clearly alien) and speak with genuine emotion. More importantly, the galaxy far far away now feels real again: Abrams and his creative team have taken decisive steps to utilise practical effects and the results are outstanding. Unlike the prequels nothing feels artificial; the world these characters occupy is once again tangible and immersive. In contrast to George Lucas’ efforts in Episodes One, Two and Three, Abrams succeeds in providing his actors a real world to thrive within.
And they most certainly do thrive. Although many doubted the credentials of newcomer Daisy Ridley – this being her first noteworthy feature film – her performance as Rey, a young resourceful survivor who lives on the desert planet of Jakku, is solid as well as charming. Her chemistry with co-star John Boyega is delightful; the two bounce dialogue off each other perfectly and their interaction on screen is one of the strong points of the first act. Boyega plays a former storm trooper who wants to abandon his previous ways in search of a better life, and he steals many of his scenes due to excellent comedic timing.
Speaking of comedy, if you are not familiar with the droid BB-8, ready yourself. This creation is going to be a phenomenon: not only is its design ingenious (trust me, every child’s letter to Santa this Christmas will contain a BB-8 droid), but also the comedic relief provided by the character wins you over from the first beep. Early retirement R2-D2?
Our villains are as intriguing as our heroes. The focal point of evil being Kylo Ren, amazingly portrayed by Adam Driver. The new dark-lord may be Vaderesque on the surface, but underneath he is a completely new creation. He is three dimensional, understandable whilst also fulfilling the sinister requirements needed for such a role. He will definitely be a fan favourite.
However, there is one character who steals the show. When the words ‘Chewie, we’re home’ were first uttered, the notion that Han Solo would once again appear in a Star Wars film seemed too good to be true. Harrison Ford is terrific, and rather than being a brief nostalgia trip his role is integral to the plot; Han Solo is certainly home. As for Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill well, you’ll just have to wait and see…
However, all this does not mean that the film is perfect. The backlash against the prequels was tremendous. Fans were disappointed; critics appalled. I believe that aftershock scared Lucasfilm and Disney. And as a result, it seems that The Force Awakens’ plot as a whole has been made familiar to Star Wars films we have seen in the past, in order to not alienate the fans. The characters are taken to new places, but the overarching plot we have seen before. Furthermore, the film tends to ask more questions than it answers. This, combined with the fact that the plot is very reminiscent of previous instalments, sometimes gives the impression that Episode VII is just set up for the sequels. These are minor, minor issues, but issues non the less.
The true success of Episode VII is the fact that these are the only faults amongst an ocean of positives.
Episode VII is pure Star Wars. From beginning to the end, The Force Awakens remains loyal to what Star Wars stands for. This is a movie that will be remembered for years to come. It is fast, it is fun, it is sheer spectacle. The cast is superb and the direction is incredible. I cannot wait for Episode VIII. The force has awoken, and it will be alive for many years to come.