After returning from a midnight screening of The Force Awakens with a swollen sense of excitement, I briefly pondered whether my nostalgia goggles or devout reverence for Star Wars averted me from its flaws. Although this idea was correct, that didn’t prevent me from recognising the other strengths of the film, as well as its invigorating and fun tonality that makes us appreciate the saga and cinema as a whole. While my first review focused on the strengths, this analyses both weaknesses and other strengths as objectively and rationally as possible.
As I mentioned in my first review, the technical elements of The Force Awakens (cinematography, special effects, CGI, sets, sound mixing, etc.) are executed to perfection . It’s clear that the reason J.J. used practical effects and real locations is because there is already an abundant amount of CGI in the dogfights and space sequences, which further highlights the film’s dissimilitude to the prequel trilogy. Speaking of which, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of J.J.’s principal aims was to atone for all the damage inflicted by the prequels, characterised by wooden acting, focus on science and politics, ubiquitous CGI, childish humour and shoddy homages to the original trilogy. Fortunately, The Force Awakens succeeds brilliantly in this aim, and is easily on par with the OT.
BB-8 is more than a worthy heir to R2-D2, evidenced by his oscillating voice patterns, sagacious personality and willingness to flip the bird. In contrast, Supreme Leader Snoke did not parallel the ominous presence and look perfected with Emperor Palpatine, despite Andy Serkis’ undeniable aptitude as a voice actor and motion-capture artist. I also feel that the characters played by Max von Sydow and Lupita Nyong’o were underwritten and not given enough of a backstory. But the character who has been the focus of many discussions surrounding this film is the fiendish and formidable Kylo Ren, performed valiantly by Adam Driver. When he is first introduced on the planet of Jakku, his jet-black attire, intimidating baritone voice and tyrannical command of the Force effortlessly set him up as the next Darth Vader. While I was irritated by Ren’s penchant for tantrums rather than Force-choking, I do appreciate J.J.’s decision to investigate his moral and emotional turmoil as a human being succumbing to the Dark Side of the Force.
Although John Williams does provide us with a great theme for Kylo Ren, there aren’t that many memorable themes, and his over reliance on many of the classic themes from Episodes IV and V prods the already omnipresent nostalgia into overindulgence. As I’ve mentioned before, this film is a living constellation of references to the OT manifested by its narrative, visuals and one-liners. Considering how ludicrously high expectations were for this movie, J.J. has done a great job to replicate the magic we got with the OT.
It didn’t occur to me until midway through the film that The Force Awakens has a few similarities to two other popular franchise blockbusters this year. While the hybrid sequel/reboot format, fierce femininity and preference for practical effects is reminiscent of Mad Max: Fury Road, the inevitable countdown to save the world and comic relief provided by witty banter drew direct parallels to Avengers: Age of Ultron. It is also possible that the strong influence of Disney might be why The Force Awakens feels more like a blockbuster than the original trilogy does.
You could say that The Force Awakens rips off the story of Episode IV, but it’s an inconsequential complaint, because the pacing is so flawless to the point that I actually wanted more material than the 2 hour 15 minute runtime, and at no given point did I ever find myself bored. The moments of humour, suspense and spectacle maintain their power no matter how many times you watch this film. I should also mention that The Force Awakens successfully crams in cameos from big stars (eg. Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Bill Hader and Harriet Walter) while simultaneously devoting attention to both the original and new cast. In short, while The Force Awakens does have its flaws, and is by no means a perfect movie, it is nonetheless a great movie that triumphantly reignites the spectacle and charm first introduced to us in 1977.
Rating - ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½