A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
And you already know the rest. So here goes – my spoiler free review of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens which I wrote for MTTN (Manipalthetalk.net) back on December 24th, 2015…
No other movie in recent memory has had to feel the weight of hype and expectations like Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens. Picking up the storyline roughly three decades after Return of the Jedi (1983) while simultaneously erasing the rather unpleasant memories of the prequel films, J.J Abrams’ new adventure in a galaxy far, far away seems to have pulled off the impossible. It restores the sense of fun and awe from the original trilogy that made it so enjoyable and timeless, while concurrently passing the torch to a fresh generation of characters that will lead this new sequel trilogy.
The film starts with Leia (Carrie Fisher), still leader of the resistance, looking for her missing brother and Jedi knight Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who went into exile after his apprentice follows Vader’s footsteps into the dark side of the force. (Umm….Obi-Wan Kenobi, much?) The only clue to his location lies inside a droid, which is discovered by a planetary scavenger and a former Storm Trooper, who together embark on a journey to return said droid to the resistance. Sounds a little too familiar, doesn’t it? We know why, but more on that later.
The injection of new, unknown actors whilst still holding on to the core cast is a commendable idea. Daisy Ridley brilliantly portrays different shades of Rey, a girl with an unclear past, who will eventually go on to usher in a new breed of badass Jedi women in the world we are so familiar with by now. Another character that shines is Finn, an ex-Storm Trooper who was an epiphany early in the film, played hilariously and energetically by John Boyega. My major concern lies, however, with Adam Driver’s take on Kylo Ren, who tries to imitate, but falls short of achieving Darth Vader’s iconic status. Trust me, it’s much more than just the deep breathing voice that he seems to be missing out on! Also, the new BB-8 droid is a splendid addition to the family as well. We are not going to talk much about the old timers like Luke, Leia, R2D2 and C-3PO, because that would be revealing too much about the plot. But rest assured, the man who leaves a lasting impression is none other than Harrison Ford, returning as Han Solo, the cocky intergalactic smuggler we all know and love.
To all those fans worried about Mr. Abrams going overboard with the lens flares as in his previous two Star Trek films, breathe a sigh of relief. Your beloved Star Wars universe has not suffered that treatment, and neither has it been overdone with CGI set pieces one after the other, which is more than what anyone can say about the last three films that we’re still trying to forget! (Yeah, I’m looking at you, Mr. Lucas! No one even cares if HAN SHOT FIRST now!) This is a big, long, glossy film but it’s also playful, irreverent and light on its feet, and a gripping one at that. The sheer magnificence of the production design, or the thrilling choreography of so many scenes will keep you on the edge of your seat for a major chunk of the film. But is it flawless? Nah! In terms of concept, the film is hardly revolutionary. Also, it somewhat tries too hard to be a true extension of the original trilogy, and relies mostly on your familiarity with the characters from those three films, for any and all emotional impact that it seems to have. Another problem it suffers from, is the fact that it seems too indebted to nostalgia and hence some plot points seem too“forced” (okay, pun really not intended!). The soundtrack too, feels slightly underwhelming since it straddles between the new and the familiar, much like the film itself.
To the writers – let’s try to have less recursion in the future, and a little more originality please, shall we? The film borrows too heavily from the original Star Wars (1977), almost to the point where you feel as though you’re just watching a J.J Abrams’ rehash of the same. Sure, the fans have been looking forward to something closer to the original films, but they do not want to be served just a derivative of the same. That being said, one can’t deny that it is a dazzling epic, both visually stunning and action packed, and one that is bound to break major box office records in the coming days. That said, Mr. Abrams recently pointed out that some of the most iconic moments in the original “Star Wars” series didn’t come until later in the trilogy, and we hope that is true for these new films as well. He was definitely the best person to resurrect the franchise in the way fans have been asking for years. I’m going with a 3/5 for The Force Awakens, and who am I kidding? It’s Star Wars, need I really say more? Book your seats right away and may the force be with you!