The following is a spoiler-free review of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, directed by J. J. Abrams.
Set three decades after Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens follows the scavenging Rey (played by Daisy Ridley); the best pilot in the Resistance, Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac); and a troubled stormtrooper, Finn (played by John Boyega), as they are suddenly thrown into a galaxy-wide search for someone or something… That is all I’ll say about the general plot of the film, which does feature the original three characters that we know and love. Star Wars is back!
When J. J. Abrams signed on to direct The Force Awakens in January of 2013 he had a job to do, but with an amazing amount of pressure on his shoulders. He had to recapture the spirit of the original trilogy, give us an entertaining first chapter in a new trilogy, and feed our need for nostalgia and thrill all at the same time – culminating in a great film. Mission accomplished.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an electrifying new chapter that makes you feel right at home, while still introducing you to new elements of the Star Wars-universe. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered – it is not only one of the best blockbusters of 2015, it is also the best Star Wars-film since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. But it is not a perfect film.
The one noticeable issue some may have with the film is that it isn’t really very original. It follows some story beats that will be very familiar to fans of the franchise. This, however, did not bother me too much as the film just works on pretty much every other level, and fully respects the original trilogy. There are also these CGI creatures that look out of place, but that’s a tiny, insignificant sequence in an amazing movie. There are other minor flaws, but I cannot really mention those in great detail.
During the prequel trilogy a lot of people criticized the direction and acting, and it pleases me to say that neither are a problem in The Force Awakens. J. J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel have given us a stunning new entry in the Star Wars-franchise, which is as good as ever measured on sound mix, production design, and original score. Daisy Ridley, in her first big budget film, shines as Rey who, on her own, has learned how to toughen up in the face of danger. She’s a very capable new hero. John Boyega & Oscar Isaac both give credible performances. But for me Han Solo, BB-8, and Kylo Ren steal the show.
If you were worried that Harrison Ford had grown out of the Han Solo role, then rest assured that he is as entertaining as ever. And then there is BB-8, who might be everyone’s new favorite droid – both young and old will fall in love with his/her very emotive persona. But the most breathtaking performance comes from Adam Driver, who plays the villainous Kylo Ren. You constantly feel his presence, his power cuts right through you, and the emotion he is allowed to show is perfectly out of line to the very best effect. He is my favorite villain since Darth Vader.
Final Score: 9 out of 10 – While it is not without flaws, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has given the franchise new life and will appeal to every crowd imaginable.
I’m Jeffrey Rex