When a new threat rises from the ashes of the Empire, new heroes arise to oppose it.
JJ Abrams, 2015
When a droid carrying the map to the vanished Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is lost on Jakku, the race is on to retrieve it. Both the heroic Resistance, led by Luke’s sister General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and the evil First Order are after the droid, which has found a protector in scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley). With his master, Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) taken by the Order, Rey promises to deliver the droid and his cargo to the Resistance. She finds help along the way thanks to defecting storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Their every step is dogged by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a Sith who is hell-bent on preventing the Resistance from discovering the location of Skywalker and enlisting his help in the fight against the First Order. The Order has big plans to wipe out the Republic and stop them from supporting the Resistance.
The seventh episode in the Star Wars saga is the first to be free of George Lucas’s influence, and it’s better as a result. Abrams has brought the old-school Star Wars flavour and updated it for a modern generation. The Force Awakens is a gorgeous looking movie, bright and colourful and mercifully clean, without the busy CG-heavy shots that marred the prequels. It’s hard not to get swept away by the new locations – the green planet on which Lupita Nyong’o’s awesome Maz Kanata lives is particularly lovely – and the space and lightsaber battles look fantastic. The dialogue is simplistic in the traditional Star Wars vein, but conveys emotions well, with moments of humour. There’s a reliance on a familiar B-story in order to support the main plot, with the hero’s awakening and the family dramas that characterise Star Wars at its heart. There are a few scenes that go on too long (the ending in particular – it’s DRAMATIC CLOSE-UP FOR TEN SECONDS, followed by ANOTHER LONG DRAMATIC CLOSE-UP, and then, just when you think it’s over, DRAMATIC CLOSE-UP, followed by HELICOPTER SHOT!) and moments that are very convenient, but the story sweeps along at such a pace that these minor issues don’t have too long to annoy the viewers. The focus of The Force Awakens is on characterisation, and on that front it delivers.
The best thing about The Force Awakens is its new characters and their interactions with the old guard. Rey is a solid hero. She’s sweet and likeable, driven by a desire to do right but hampered by her reluctance to leave. She’s very capable (occasionally to the point of straining credulity, but that will hopefully be explained soon). It will be interesting to see how she develops over the course of three films. It’s great to see a woman taking the lead and being the unapologetic hero in a Star Wars film, and Daisy Ridley handles the role well. Oscar Isaac is dreamy as hotshot flyboy Poe Dameron, and while he gets the least development in this instalment, his old-school charisma and insta-friendship with Finn are dynamite. Speaking of whom, Finn is this film’s breakout character. The movie really digs into the mythology of storm troopers, and John Boyega brings naivety and a healthy level of humour to Finn in order to make him fascinating and sympathetic. He’s wonderful. Adam Driver brings a rangy, caged animal physicality to Kylo Ren, whose tenuous control on his emotions leads to an unpredictable, very human villain. The core cast is completed by a magnificently grouchy return from Harrison Ford, who slips into Han Solo’s boots with glorious ease. He has a lot of the film’s best lines, and seeing him again is like seeing an old friend for Christmas. The Force Awakens is a rousing ride, with touches of nostalgia supporting the first chapter in a new story, and if you’re not grinning by the end then you might want to check your pulse.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens on IMDb