The Force might be awake, but I’m knackered. It’s 4:00 AM and I’m up writing this review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, having just got back from a midnight screening. Sleep simply isn’t an option; there’s too many thoughts bouncing around in my head. And while I can tell you there are plenty of positives, I regret to report there are also some issues. JJ Abrams has managed to recapture the magic of the original trilogy, wafting away the stink of the prequels, but as a film in its own right, this is far from perfect. I might just be cranky – that happens when you’ve been anxiously waiting in line with hundreds of other people mooing like mad cows – but it seems like Episode VII – probably the most anticipated film of all time – had the impossible task of living up to its hype.
There’s no need to go into what this franchise means to people because you’ve probably read that a thousand times already this week, but the one thing we should establish is that I definitely like Star Wars more than you. Ha! How can any fan go into the cinema impartial? I was so overcome with excitement I could barely believe I was watching it, even after twenty minutes of it starting (sad, I know). That being said, I can’t ignore some of the untidy storytelling here, which comes as a surprise considering this is essentially a rehash of A New Hope. Don’t worry; there’ll be no spoilers.
Thirty years after the death of Darth Vader, the fall of the Empire and the greatest Ewok party all time, a new threat emerges in the form of the Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a new Stormtrooper army called the First Order. When a lonely scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) collides paths with runaway soldier, Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford), they must work together to hide a precious piece of information from the Dark Side.
There you go. That’s all you’re getting. Literally everything else is a spoiler. If you’ve read something different somewhere else then it’s totally ruined for you and should probably be weeping. But yes, there are stark comparisons between this and A New Hope, many of which are responsible for making TFA an absolute joy to watch. From the practical effects to Lawrence Kasdan’s punchy and frequently funny script, this really feels like Star Wars. But paying homage is often its downfall too. Recycling famous set pieces makes it difficult to care about the threat of the First Order. It also leaves little room to explore some of the new characters we’ve been invested in since the trailers. One in particular gets a pathetic amount of screen-time, which would have been excusable if they hadn’t been represented as the most flaccid cock ever.
The main cast are utterly faultless, however. For me, Ridley shines the brightest, playing passion and terror purely with her eyes, while Driver delivers perhaps the most complex villain in the history of the franchise, a totally unexpected character that is in no way a cheap imitation of Darth Vader. Boyega delivers most of the comedic blows with vitality, and Harrison Ford effortlessly slips back into the role of Han Solo, but this time more emotionally developed. Are you reading, Hayden Christensen? They didn’t fuck it up!
Sending the likes of Jar Jar Binks and talk of “coarse sand” to the bottom of the deepest, crap-filled pit, The Force Awakens has brought back the franchise in the way I hoped it would. Grinning at any given moment and aggressively nodding at every right move made by Abrams, there’s no doubt I was thoroughly entertained. I’d even go as far as saying this is one of the best examples of the power of cinema, with extravagant (but not ridiculous) action sequences and piercing sound. It’s a great addition to Star Wars. But in it’s own right? Any film that struggles to coherently tell its story is unlikely to convert doubters. And for me personally, a seriously horrendous final shot left a bitter taste in my mouth. It’s not better than The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi, but at least it’s on the right track.
I’m seeing it again tomorrow to make sure I definitely agree with all the bilge I just typed. So hurry up and see the film because I’ll be writing a spoiler-filled review next!