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Star Wars: The Force Awakens - initial thoughts

"Star Wars has become brilliant again"

Almost 40 years ago, millions of moviegoers lined up for hours to be treated to a film that had built up to feverishly high anticipation. That same level of tantalising excitement was replicated during a midnight screening of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens that I was privileged enough to attend. As hundreds of dedicated Star Wars fans and I were treated to this film, we gradually realised that the real force that has awakened is the cinematic power of the Star Wars saga which reached its peak with the original trilogy (OT).

Director/writer/producer J.J. Abrams emphasised at Comic-Con 2015 how one of his utmost priorities was to tell a good story that belonged in the Star Wars canon. While The Force Awakens follows a similar arc to A New Hope, but the actual story itself manages to be energetic, exciting, intriguing and elaborate. Although I regrettably got exposed to too many spoilers beforehand, I still managed to appreciate the narrative, as well as the film’s subtle homages to classic film directors, such as Akira Kurosawa, Terrence Malick, David Lean and even Alfred Hitchcock. The Force Awakens does its best to avoid Deus Ex Machina, placing characters in sticky situations that they can only escape using their wits. Although there are a few loose ends in the plot, Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan (the writer of The Empire Strikes Back) more than compensate for this with surprisingly humorous dialogue and sly references to the original trilogy, doing so in a way that caters to both fans and newcomers. 

Speaking of the OT, all the familiar characters are reintroduced in a glorious fashion and provoked cheers from the audience at each introduction. I will never forget the volcanic rupture of applause when Han Solo and Chewbacca first appear on screen. Luke and Leia also make an appearance in this film, however, their role in the plot is minimal in comparison to the importance of Han and Chewie in the narrative. Fighting alongside the old pirates are Finn and Rey, dextrously played by John Boyega and Daisy Ridley respectively. While we are drawn to Finn’s journey away from the genocidal First Order, it is Rey’s character arc that we are most intrigued by. Rey is everything a great character should be - smart, strong, funny, likeable and human. 

Not only is J.J. a great director who cares about story, characters and performances, but also his attention to detail and technique are frequently manifested throughout the film. The diversity of characters, costumes and creatures present in the first two acts is mind-boggling and incredibly admirable, as is J.J.’s insistence on using practical effects. Because many of the larger battles require the usage of CGI, the presence of real sets, locations and explosions throughout the rest of the film increases both the plausibility and the aesthetic quality of the film. The attention to detail is also manifested by Kylo Ren’s shuttle, designed to be a cross between a bird of prey and a Nazi fighter plane, while his infamous crossguard crimson lightsaber proves to be quite useful against Ren’s opponents while at close range. Moreover, J.J.’s decision to shoot on 35mm film and 65mm IMAX format, along with John Williams’ triumphant return to the score, truly replicate the magic of the OT.

Being a fan of J.J.’s Star Trek reboot, I knew that the perfect director had been selected to helm the first sequel to the OT. His energetic, fun and non-pretentious style as a director is in full blossom with The Force Awakens, and he effortlessly replicates the strong story, great characters and flawless visuals and effects introduced in 1977 with a great deal of humility. I’ve never seen a movie in which I chronically have grinned at throughout the entire runtime with my heart tirelessly beating at a fast tempo. My Buddy Rich-like cardiac patterns were not only due to the captivating material present in The Force Awakens, but also because of the realisation that Star Wars has become brilliant again.

Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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