By Neil Hazel | Follow @IamNeilHazel
Fear not Star Wars fans, J.J. Abrams has restored balance to the Force. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a serviceable entry into the Star Wars saga. Is it a perfect movie? No. Is it better than what some fans consider a messy prequel series? Yes. The Force Awakens is a good Star Wars movie and will satisfy many eager fans that have waited years for a new entry. This review from this point forward will contain minor spoilers, but I will do my best not to reveal too much.
The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Episode VI – Return of The Jedi. The Empire has fallen and The New Order has risen to take its place. Luke Skywalker is in hiding and both The New Order and The Resistance are trying to find his location. The film follows a ragtag group that stumbles upon a map to Luke as they team up with allies both old and new on their search for him. The actual events of The Force Awakens are unique and exciting, but it does seem to follow the storyline of A New Hope a little too closely. It would have been nice to see Abrams take some risks with the storyline and try to deliver something new, but what he has put on the screen is sure to make fans happy.
The Force Awakens feels like a Star Wars film through and through. Abrams has delivered a film that is very much focused on making die hard fans happy. Everything from the score, to the locations, to the editing feels like an authentic Star Wars experience. Abrams decision to use practical effects rather than CGI paid off, as the worlds feel extremely immersive. They are packed with interesting and unique looking characters and intricate set designs. The special effects and sound design are both great, as blasters and lightsabers both look and sound amazing.
Returning to the universe and seeing the old characters is sure to put a smile on any Star Wars fan’s face, especially the banter between Han Solo and Chewbacca. That is not to take away from the new characters that Abrams has added to the universe however, as they are some of the best in the series. By the end of the film there is a new trio akin to Luke, Leia and Han comprised of an ex-Stormtrooper, Finn played by John Boyega, an X-wing pilot, Poe, played by Oscar Isaac and a scavenger, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley. All three of these young actors give fans a reason to be excited about the future of the Star Wars series.
On the other side the evil characters we are given are interesting, but it seems that they were not fully fleshed out. This leads to one of the biggest problems with The Force Awakens, as fan service and callbacks to the original films are prioritized over establishing groundwork for itself. Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, is the main villain of The Force Awakens, and a compelling one at that. He is a frustrated young man that struggles with both the light and dark side of the Force. At times he is a commanding presence on the screen, while at others he shows his vulnerability. General Hux, played by Domhnall Gleeson, delivers a powerful performance in the little screen time that he is given. For the other evil other evil characters however, there is a feeling that they are merely being set up in this film only to be fully realized later in the new trilogy.
The action scenes in the film are diverse, tense and exciting. Ranging from an explosive foot chase on a desert planet to dogfights above lush, green planets. The action is both exciting, with blasters and explosions causing havoc on the screen, yet still easy to follow. There are two scenes of confrontation that stand above the rest in the film, the outcomes of which have great implications on the future of the franchise. Due to the fact that so much characterization, locations, and action scenes were plugged into the film, the overall scheme of The New Order does suffer from having a lack of weight behind it, and as such was a little underwhelming. It is important to remember however, that this is simply the first installment, and that two more films are on the way.
All in all Star Wars fans are going to love The Force Awakens. It is a fun film that gives action, excitement, humor and fan service in equal measure. Although some scenes do feel cheesy, and there is a lack of depth in some of the characters and plotlines, Abrams has proved that he knows how to handle a Star Wars film. If this is just the beginning, it will be exciting to see what the future holds for Star Wars.