Last year – which was only a couple of days ago – Ben and I went to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. After 10 years, this was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year. With no George Lucas at the helm and a group of new lead characters, would it live up to the hype or would it disappoint the devoted fans? Find out in our The Force Awakens review.
Warning: This review contains spoilers
First of all it’s great to see the old fashioned opening, like the one from A New Hope with the words scrolling away from the screen, good to see Disney kept it that way, but then again you can tell that this is a film made for the fans. It’s also a good way to explain the plot, the movie takes place 30 years after Return of the Jedi, the Empire has been defeated but in it’s place the First Order has risen, so now it’s time for a new band of heroes to save the day.
The film does feel similar to A New Hope, there are references to the previous movies (such as a wrecked AT-AT seen in one scene, there’s also a new cantina which the heroes go to at one point), as well as the plot itself. It focuses on The Resistance (the new Rebel Alliance) and their battle against The First Order (the new Empire, complete with Stormtroopers) including their plan to destroy the Starkiller Base (the new Death Star), which they blow up using X-Wings.
But while it is similar to A New Hope, there are new characters, new locations, new alien races, and the aforementioned new cantina. In the middle of all this chaos and fighting is BB-8, the little white and orange robot you’ve no doubt already seen even if you haven’t seen the film. It holds a map that leads to Luke Skywalker that both The Resistance and the First Order want.
The new characters are great by the way. There’s Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, a scavenger who was abandoned on a desert planet as a child. She is an effective, strong female lead. Then there’s Poe (Oscar Isaac) a brilliant X-Wing pilot working for The Resistance, and Finn (John Boyega) a former First Order Stormtrooper who turned against them and sided with The Resistance. I particularly like this character and the actor playing him. John Boyega is great in the role and it’s nice to see an original black lead character who isn’t a token. Recently the only black characters you get are ones that were previously white characters, like Annie or The Equalizer, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Samuel L. Jackson, he’s a hell of an actor and he’s great as Nick Fury, but it does come to something when you have to make a white character black to give a black actor a role, all it does is make them feel like token characters. Anyway, moving on.
Meanwhile, Adam Driver is truly amazing as main villain Kylo Ren. At first he just seems like a Darth Vader rip off, dressed all in black and with an air of menace to him, but the character differs in some key ways. Firstly Kylo Ren removes his mask, making him less of a monster and more human, and his emotional scene with Han Solo adds to this. Also, when he gets mad after hearing that BB 8 got away from his troops with the map to Luke Skywalker, he goes mental, trashing the place with his lightsaber, making him feel more unstable than Vader. And speaking of removing masks, there is a moment when former Stormtrooper Finn removes his helmet, showing that the Stormtroopers are not just faceless enemies there to get killed – there are actual human beings under those helmets.
Aside from the new characters, some familiar faces make a return. Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo while Carrie Fisher returns as Leia, and it’s as if they never stopped playing those characters. They’re perfect. Anthony Daniels returns as C3PO and Peter Mayhew returns as Chewbacca, who actually has a bigger role in this film. Before he was nothing more than the muscle, more of a background character who would tower over the heroes as they walked down a hallway, but here his character is given more time to develop, there’s a part where he flirts with a nurse who is tending to a wound, and there are times where you can almost understand what he’s saying.
But one character I was most hoping would return was Admiral Ackbar, and I’m glad to say he’s back too! Meanwhile Kenny Baker is credited as the consultant for R2 D2. I’ve since read that Jimmy Vee will play the part of R2 in the upcoming sequels. Just going off topic here – as I like to do from time to time – I found out recently that Birmingham native Kenny Baker does not have a star in the Birmingham Walk of Stars, which honours Birmingham celebrities as well as those who just have ties to Birmingham. Kenny Baker is a brilliant actor, and while he may be best known for playing R2 D2, his roles in films like The Elephant Man and Time Bandits prove just how good an actor he is. While the Birmingham Walk of Stars is just a poor mans Walk of Fame, Kenny Baker is a Birmingham born actor and deserves a spot on the Walk of Stars more than Roy Wood. Anyway, moving on.
Speaking of the cast there are some notable actors in minor roles and cameos. Max Von Sydow plays an aged adventurer at the beginning of the movie, Simon Pegg plays a junkyard vendor on Jakku (the planet Rey lives on), Greg Grunberg plays an X-Wing pilot and Daniel Craig and Warwick Davis have cameos as a Stormtrooper and a patron of the cantina respectively.
The plot follows The Resistance, the good guys lead by Leia, and their battle against The First Order, the villains lead by Kylo Ren and the mysterious Snoke who only appears as a hologram in this movie. In the midst of all this Leia is searching for her twin brother, Luke, who has gone missing, hoping he will aid them in their battle against The First Order. To help find Luke she has sent out Poe, the Resistance’s best pilot. He is given a map to Luke Skywalker, and to protect it, he gives it to BB-8 shortly before being captured by the First Order, only to be saved by Stormtrooper Finn, who betrays The First Order. When BB-8 is saved by Rey, both she and Finn are unwittingly put into the middle of the war between The Resistance and The First Order.
There was a lot I liked about the film. First of all the visuals, which are fantastic, taking us from outer space to deserts to snowy forests. A lot of it was obviously filmed on location – scenes that take place in space probably weren’t on location – and there was minimal to no green screen scenes, which really helped to make the whole thing feel more believable. There’s a lot of action in there too. It’s an action packed adventure no doubt about it and the action hardly ever lets up. There are lightsaber duels, shoot outs, chases etc. And then there are the characters, all of whom are brilliantly written, especially Han and Leia who at one point have a little back and forth which reminds me of when they first met in A New Hope. Speaking of the writing, it’s brilliant, JJ Abrams’ writing really makes the film.
Overall I give it 5 out of 5, I loved it. There are a lot of surprising revelations – like Ren’s parents – but there are also unanswered questions and a lot of speculation. Who is Rey exactly? Who is her family? Who abandoned her on Jakku? Plus the ending perfectly sets up the sequel.
Our rating: (5 / 5)