In one month’s time, the world will be flocking to the cinemas to see the second Star Wars film in as many years. Before then, it’s only fair to revisit the film that made the franchise popular again. As many hoped, the seventh instalment in the long-running saga is entertaining, but not in the ways many were anticipating.
As the iconic opening crawl explains to the audience, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) – the Jedi Knight who twice defeated the evil Empire – has gone into hiding, and has not been seen in years. His sister, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is leading a search party to locate Skywalker, and things look hopeful after a lead is found on the desert planet of Jakku.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse after the pilot tasked with keeping Skywalker’s whereabouts safe, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is captured by the First Order – the sinister organisation created after the fall of the Empire. Poe leaves the vital information with his soccer ball-like droid BB-8, who is left to wander the sand of Jakku alone.
And so sets of a chain off events which sees BB-8 meet up with a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley), a rogue Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) rescue Poe from the First Order, a crash landing on Jakku, an escape from the desert in a familiar vessel, and a chance encounter with two scruffy-looking scoundrels. And that’s just the beginning of our journey…
Those familiar with the Star Wars saga may notice that the plot of The Force Awakens is very similar to A New Hope, the original film released in 1977. Despite this, or perhaps in spite of it, Episode VII works hard to develop its own identity. This is evident in both the cinematography – which provides an excellent sense of scale and scope – and the storytelling, which is far less dialogue-driven than the other Star Wars films.
In fact, there’s a lot to love about The Force Awakens. All of the new characters – Finn, Rey and others – are likeable and very easy to identify with; the action scenes are incredibly exciting; and the humour is far funnier than anyone could imagine, often found where it is least expected. This makes the picture more than just a great Star Wars film, it makes it a generally great blockbuster.
The greater feat, though, is how the film has allowed Star Wars to worm its way back into public consciousness. Growing up, I remember Star Wars as being something nerdy or uncool, even as the prequel trilogy was being shown in theatres. Now, people my age talk openly about their love of the franchise, while the generation below mine loves The Force Awakens so much they look up to the protagonists as their role models.
As happy as this makes me, the flaws of The Force Awakens cannot be overlooked. There are many talented actors who are tragically underused, with just one being Academy Award-nominee Max von Sydow. The villains, like Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are weak and show almost no threat to our heroes. And, most puzzling of all, the musical score by John Williams is utterly forgettable.
But this is just nit-picking an otherwise enjoyable film. With its loveable characters, familiar faces, clever cinematography, intense action scenes and energetic spirit, The Force Awakens makes for not just a great movie, but a worthy entry in the Star Wars canon, and a film to inspire young and old for generations to come.
This film was previously reviewed for YO Bendigo on December 23rd, 2015.