I’m going to say right from the off that this review WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. So I urge you, if you have any desire to see this film in any way then please don’t read on to give yourself the best cinematic experience possible.
Ok now to the film. Firstly, and most importantly, it’s amazing. And not just in a it’s a new Star Wars film so I’m going to love it anyway amazing, as in this is a genuinely great film, one of the best Star Wars films certainly, and one of my favourite cinema experiences in a long time.
The returning cast are all excellent, especially Harrison Ford, who was given the most to do in this film by a long way, but boy does he do it well. But even more importantly the new cast are all brilliant as well, both John Boyega and Oscar Isaac do great jobs with their characters of Poe Dameron and Finn, but it is Daisy Ridley as Rey who is absolutely the star of the show. She’s fantastic in it, more than holding her own against some much more experienced actors around her, and brings to us one of the best screen heroines in a a long while, certainly the best I can think of since Buffy.
Speaking of the new characters, Finn is also a hugely likeable character, and almost offers the audience a way into this world at times with his lack of knowledge of whats going on, he really feels like a genuine human character would act in this situation. BB-8 is also an instant classic of a character. He is so cute and funny, that thumbs up with the lighter moment for instance, he’s sure to have the same cultural impact as R2-D2 did in the original. The new villain Grand Leader Snoke is wrapped in mystery with very little revealed about him yet and he’s only appeared in hologram, but I’m sure his back story will be explored in the next two films of the trilogy. Finally Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is right up there as one of the best Star Wars villains, but also probably the most human ever. His original appearance with the mask is as cool as any other villain like Vader or Maul, but there’s a lot of depth to him. His angry outbursts really do a good job of showing us how he is a confused young man who struggles to keep those emotions in check (something Driver managed to play a lot better than Hayden Christensen ever did, not that thats saying much). But we can see that he is probably also right up there in the pantheon of Star Wars villains, after all he is the man who killed Han Solo.
One thing that The Force Awakens does extremely well is take that theme of parents and their children, and bring it to new bigger places. Whilst the original trilogy, the film in particular, focused very much on Luke’s attempts to bring his father back from the dark side, this changes that up with the reveal of Kylo Ren as Han and Leia’s son Ben. I have to say that wasn’t something that I predicted they would do (I thought Ray would prove to be Han and Leia’s daughter, although the fact they were heavily hinting towards that makes me think it’s now a red herring), but nor is it something that hugely surprises me given some of the tortuous history of the original three heroes children in the (now non-canon) extended universe stories. This mean that we now have the son of two good characters gone evil, something that allows the filmmakers to explore how the parents blame themselves for the way their child has turned out (or not in Leia’s case), and how it has driven them apart, something that a lot of people will be able to relate to in the real world. This came to a head wonderfully in that hugely powerful scene on the bridge in the Starkiller base (it is another Death Star guys, just far far bigger). I have to say Han’s death in that scene was so inevitable and not at all as surprising as I think they wanted it to be, but it certainly still packed the emotional punch that it needed to. I also thought it offered a very nice twist on the original trilogy’s he can still be saved idea that Leia was pushing for, as it was the ultimate rejection of his parents. I also really like the juxtaposition of Ben, a person who knew his parents and turned away to the dark side, with Rey, someone who doesn’t know her parents and has spent her whole life waiting for them, but still choses to fight for the light side.
The Force Awakens is not a perfect film, the plot of this is certainly very close to both Episodes IV and VI, but it does make some knowing reference to that “so it’s another Death Star?” or “there’s always a way to blow it up”. The blend of CGI and practical effects on this was far better than the CGI saturated prequels, something which JJ Abrams clearly wanted to get back to.
There was so much in there for Star Wars fans, both casual and die hard to love as well, C-3PO’s appearance towards the end was fantastic, and really captured just how funny a character he was in the original. I also loved the way that BB-8 clearly looked up to other classic droid R2-D2, in much the way the new human characters looked up to returning ones. My favourite call backs to the original trilogy had to be the appearance of Admiral Ackbar and Nien Nunb, showing how much the makers of The Force Awakens really cared about those Original Trilogy.
Overall this is certainly a spectacular return for Star Wars, I had a beaming smile on my face for pretty much the whole showing. I thoroughly recommend we all go see it 50 times and smash some box office records so they keep making them this quality.