There has been an awakening, have you felt it? Because if you’re planning on seeing Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, then you soon will do. Yes, indeed, 10 years since Revenge of the Sith, 30 since Return of the Jedi, and what feels like a lifetime since the first trailer dropped for TFA, Star Wars has made a triumphant return in the capable and devoted hands of J.J. Abrams – living up to the absurd hype building around this film and delivering an exciting and worthy installment to the franchise. Welcoming back the old and introducing the new generation, Abrams has achieved something that may not feel overly original, but instead delivers in what feels right and familiar. With a stellar cast, breathtaking effects, and whole lot of fun and love that resonates from the screen, Episode VII is the movie we were desperate for and one that should satisfy fans on just about every level.
As the hype surrounding this movie has been built on it’s extreme secrecy and has thus drawn a lot of unfortunate spoilers either from endless predicitons or some a-holes who have nothing better to do with their time (we call that the Dark Side), it is with great urgency that I tell you, the less you know the better it is, and so I will divulge very little information on the plot. I will say that we tread on familiar territory in the story in terms of structure and events, similar to the old trilogy (particularly A New Hope), with the forces of good and evil represented here by the Resistance and The First Order (essentially still the Rebels and the Empire). That may disgruntle a few out there, but I will say that Abrams has done Star Wars exactly as it should be done in telling a simple story with little politics, an appropriate dose of melodrama, plenty of action that constantly drives the plot forward, and a heightened sense of wonder that won our hearts in the first trilogy. Not only that, but Abrams has taken so much care and paid so much attention to detail that the film is a visual success on it’s own. Again, there’s such a familiar atmosphere in just about every location that feels authentic and true to the originals, and there are plenty of subtle easter eggs that never feel forced and just furthers the nostalgia.
To elaborate on the action, this movie truly delivers some of the best sequences in the franchise including (but not limited to) the desert chase with the Millennium Falcon (in all her glory) and tie fighters (as seen in the trailers), and an incredibly awesome and emotional climactic lightsaber battle between Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and another character. Abrams again excels in reintroducing the old ways of blunt fighting as opposed to synchronized sword twirling, and it pays off brilliantly – the fights here feel desperate and intense with stakes on either side. With keeping in the practical effects of the old movies, Abrams carefully adds his own unique touch, and I don’t just mean lens glares… of which there are only one or two. The gleam of the lightsabers make the characters and the surrounding environment glow. In a climactic air assault on the base of the first order, we get brief sequences from within an X-wing cockpit and they’re breathtaking, as are the ones in the Falcon… of course. It’s just incredibly gratifying to be able to immerse ourselves into the action again and still get this new sense of excitement.
Speaking of the Millennium Falcon, it’s great to see Harrison Ford return as Han Solo with such enthusiasm. I was skeptical at first, but he delivers and takes the role again with ease. The chemistry between him and Chewy (Peter Mayhew) is as great as ever, delivering in most of the laughs and even a punch of emotion. The new generation, for the most part, deliver in their respective roles, bringing on a new era for the series, and I must say it is most welcome. Domnhall Gleeson gets a little too over-the-top as the First Order’s General Hux, he’s simply too young for the part and his performance exploits the fact. John Boyega is solid as young Finn, an ex-storm trooper turned Rebel (or resistance… whatever). Boyega brings a lot of the laughs and plays well off of his fellow cast members, but there are moments where he gets a little carried away with his antics, to an extent that takes you out of the film, even to the point that Han Solo himself tells him to chill out. Adam Driver definitely holds a top spot for one of the franchise’s best villains as Kylo Ren. He certainly is the most emotional and foul-tempered villain we’ve had yet, but it works to great effect as it makes him unpredictable – he’s a formidable foe and I look forward to them furthering his potential over the next two films. The show, however, belongs to Daisy Ridley who, as the scavenger Rey, everyone is going to simply adore, as I already do. Behold the future of Star Wars – Ridley is it, and without giving anything away, she is wonderful in the role and I can’t wait to see where it takes her. She perfectly embodies the keen innocence and wonder that we shared with Luke in A New Hope, and I can honestly praise her to no end… she’s just so delightful.
To revisit the Star Wars universe again was really such a delight, which is as it should be. When so many movies these days strive to bring gritty and realistic takes on beloved heroes, it’s nice to have something as magical as Star Wars return and to be done so with so much care and affection. This was clearly made by someone who loves the universe created by George Lucas so long ago, and The Force Awakens is a testament to that. It’s not without it’s faults. It struggles with some pacing issues occasionally (though admittedly it ends perfectly), along with some fairly predictable plot twists, and there are a handful of characters that are grossly underused (Oscar Isaacs’ Poe Dameron for one), but because of it’s excellent execution and the wonderful energy behind each performance, you become so immersed you may not even mind. After so much doubt, this was truly a rewarding experience for me as both a Star Wars fan and general movie goer. There’s some comfort in knowing that the people behind this may in fact care as much as we do about these characters and their adventures, and so now I optimistically look forward to the future episodes, and to seeing Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens again and again.