Dec
18
2015
0

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Spoiler Free Review

I walked into Star Wars: The Force Awakens with sky-high expectations. I had built up the movie so much in my head that, as I sat in my seat, waiting for the film to start, I began to wonder if it could possibly live up to the expectations I had for it. But, as soon as the Star Wars logo flashed on the screen, accompanied by John Williams’ iconic score, and followed immediately by the franchise’s signature opening crawl, I knew that my expectations would be met. I walked out of the theater satisfied with what I had seen – no, more than satisfied. The film was more than I ever could have hoped for. That’s not to say it’s perfect (it isn’t) but The Force Awakens is still an incredible film, and one that fits perfectly into the Star Wars franchise.

Despite managing to capture the tone and feel of the original trilogy, director JJ Abrams manages to create something that is quite unlike the other six films. The tone is noticeably darker than anything we’ve seen from Star Wars before (perhaps barring a few novels from the old EU). This is not inherently a good thing, but Abrams, along with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, handle the tonal shift well. It never feels overly gritty, and it always feels justified. After all, when the movie opens, the audience is dropped in the middle of a massive intergalactic conflict. In many ways, it’s similar to how A New Hope begins.

BB8

In fact, The Force Awakens is quite similar to A New Hope; thematically and structurally. In some ways, this is detrimental to the film – there are times when it feels over-reliant on what has come before. For the most part, however, it feels like a fitting stylistic choice on the part of the writing team, especially as more about the plot and characters is revealed throughout the course of the film. Plus, A New Hope is a great example of how to successfully execute the classic hero’s journey trope on the big screen, so avoiding similarities entirely would have been virtually impossible.

On the topic of the hero’s journey, that’s definitely present here with the new cast. The new characters are intriguing from the minute they are introduced, and as the curtains are pulled back their stories only become more interesting. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is definitely the standout here. Of the entire cast, she probably gets the most screen time, and the result is a masterfully executed character arc. Ridley’s performance is excellent as well – she does a great job selling the character. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is equally as interesting, though he doesn’t get quite as much screen time. Despite his back story still being mired in mystery, what we do get of his character is quite engaging. There’s an interesting dynamic going on with his relationship to the Force that we haven’t really seen before, and that’s exciting.

Rey and BB8

John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron don’t have quite the same effect as Rey and Kylo, but both are great characters in their own right. Boyega’s character arc is probably the most interesting of the two, especially as his relationship with the First Order is explored. He shares screen time with Ridley, and the two develop a great dynamic over the course of the film, not only with one another, but also with Harrison Ford, reprising his role here as Han Solo. The performances given by the entire returning cast are commendable, as is their integration into the film. They definitely have a role to play, but it’s clear that The Force Awakens is not about them.

Surprisingly, there’s a fair bit of humor in The Force Awakens. A bit of levity is definitely necessary to counterbalance the darkness of the rest of the film, and for the most art, it works. It’s not necessarily something we’ve seen in Star Wars to this degree before (unless you count Jar Jar, but he was just unfunny), but it’s a welcome addition. Sure, some of it definitely falls flat, but that doesn’t occur often enough to make it a real sticking point. Lumped in with the humor are multiple nods to past films. There are some great references here, none of which I really want to spoil for those who have yet to see the film.

Kylo Ren

The Force Awakens also has some of the best action sequences in the franchise. Much of this is thanks to much-improved technology, but the dogfights between Resistance X-Wings and the TIE Fighters of The First Order are a sight to behold. This film really has an epic sense of scale, and that comes across quite well in the battles. It’s not only the aerial battles that are well done, but the climactic lightsaber duel is brilliant. It’s raw in a way that we haven’t seen before, and while it’s not quite as insane as, say, Duel of the Fates or Anakin vs. Obi-Wan, the way it’s shot gives it a ton of impact. The action is a great time to watch unfold, even when the stakes are at their highest.

The Force Awakens is an excellent installment in the Star Wars saga. Even for those who aren’t as big on the franchise as I am, it’s an insanely well made film with some excellent characters, who drive the movie. Before you see it, though, avoid spoilers. There are some major reveals that act as great moments in the film, so do your best to avoid ruining those for yourself. the film’s success isn’t contingent on these moments, but they are huge, and some of them are set up for episode VIII and IX, which, if this is any sign, will be incredible films.

Also, and I promise this is my final note, BB-8 is pretty much everything you hoped for and more. That little droid steals so many scenes it’s not even funny. Actually, BB-8 is pretty funny. And also adorable.