A recent trend I’ve noticed is that a lot of Star Wars fans have been turning against The Force Awakens, and in response, a lot of others who are still loyal to the film have dubbed them as toxic, with both sides seemingly oblivious to the fact that it’s the rivalry itself that is truly toxic. I only preface my review with this because my opinion, if anything, has got more positive over time, however, it’s still not the gleaming beacon of praise that some expect the response to The Force Awakens to be.
I wasn’t a big fan of the film two years ago, and I’m still not a big fan of the film now. I’m not ‘following a trend’, ‘trying to be cool’ or being critical for the sake of being critical. It’s just my opinion, as is everything on this blog. That’s how all film reviews work. You just need to find a critic whose opinions are in line with your own and follow them.
(I was going to link to my original review here to prove my point, but it looks like I either removed it or it’s on my other blog, which is currently offline, when it comes back, I’ll link to it here).
HOWEVER, that doesn’t mean I’m not inviting discussion. If you want to comment and debate this or any other films I review, please do! Just don’t label me a ‘hater’ because I don’t think The Force Awakens is the best film since Empire.
RELEASED: December 18th 2015
DIRECTED BY: J.J. Abrams
WRITTEN BY: J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan & Michael Arndt
PRODUCED BY: J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk & Kathleen Kennedy
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o & Max von Sydow
I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say this many times again, but I have never been more excited for any movie (and probably never will again) than I was for The Force Awakens. The promotional campaign was splendidly done, building up anticipation for over a whole year! Each trailer made me feel like my inner child had reawoken, and filled me with love and nostalgia for the franchise that always held a special place in my heart.
And that is how The Force Awakens gets you.
Saying that, it didn’t (and still hasn’t) got me.
The film is set thirty years after the end of Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has gone missing, and in his absence the Empire has been reformed as the First Order. Opposing them is General Leia Organa’s Resistance, who have the backing of the New Republic. But when the Resistance learns of a map to Skywalker, the two factions come to a head, and young scavenger Rey, rogue stormtrooper Finn and loveable veteran Han Solo are caught in the middle.
The main issue I take with this film is that, as a story, it’s fundamentally lacking. In an effort to wipe away the bad taste the prequels left in everyone’s mouths, Disney pushed out a film that is like a ‘greatest hits’ compilation of the Original Trilogy. It gives you everything it knows you love, resetting characters to their original roles, and essentially, re-instigating the age old conflict between the
Rebellion Resistance and the Empire First Order.
Now let me just stress this point: I understand why they have done this. I understand that they wanted to show the world that this new generation of Star Wars is more in line with the originals than the prequels. I get that.
But I think it’s incredibly lazy.
I’m a big fan of J.J. Abrams’ movies. He got me into Star Trek. And I don’t just mean his new films. His reboot series, or Kelvin Timeline or whatever you want to call it, convinced me to go back and check out the Original Series from way back. I don’t follow it as religiously as I do Star Wars, but it’s fun. He’s a great visual director and storyteller. And this film show’s that; it looks spectacular. Not just in what’s actually happening on screen, but in the lighting, the angling, the way it’s cut – it’s all fantastic.
However, I now understand how Star Trek fans felt about Into Darkness. Just because you want to recapture the spirit of something, doesn’t mean you should just copy-and-paste it. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: it’s lazy.
Especially because, alongside this great director and production team, you’ve also got Lawrence Kasdan, the writer of Empire Strikes Back, on board. The man who wrote the best Star Wars film can surely come up with a new story that could recapture the hearts and minds of audiences everywhere.
But he didn’t, because Disney and Lucasfilm were lazy about it (said it again, that’s three times now).
And I don’t just mean that the story is, at times, a rehash of A New Hope with splashes of Empire, I also take issue with the returning characters. They haven’t progressed. If anything, they’ve regressed. Luke is still the last Jedi. Han is still a smuggler. Leia’s got a promotion, but she too is effectively in a similar place to where we left her. They’re still picking up force-sensitive teens on desert planets, they’re still destroying Death stars and they’re still flying X-Wings.
And before you argue that the characters have progressed; they’re parents and they’ve returned to these roles because of an unspeakable tragedy – I know what happened, I’ve watched this film a lot in the past two years, dying to fall in love with it.
But whatever they say in what is, mostly, a decent script, that doesn’t change the fact that the driving force behind the film is the desire to reset the status quo. You can do new things with characters and have them still be interesting. It’s somewhat depressing to see that thirty years on, our favourite characters are still in the same place they were when we left them.
But enough about that. There is stuff I appreciate about this film.
As I’ve already mentioned, the cinematography on this film is great. I maintain that this is perhaps the best made Star Wars film so far. The script, as I said, despite the actual story, is decent. Returning characters sound like they should, while new characters, despite sounding like they’re trying to force the humour, are likeable. They gel well into the Star Wars universe, and I am genuinely excited to see where Rey, Finn and Poe go, moving forward.
The stand-out of the new cast is easily Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. Although I’ve said multiple times that Vader is the best villain of all time, Kylo is a seriously strong contender for the role (in the context or Star Wars, at very least). Adam Driver brings him to life with such intensity and brutality that you can’t help but think that this is the sort of character we should have got for Anakin in the prequels. When he shouts “Traitor!” towards the end of the film, it gives me goosebumps. Sure, he’s whiny, but he also shows that he’s very human – he’s scared, he wants to be appreciated. You can empathise with him, even if he does do despicable things.
The music is also great. John Williams returns and brings with him a score that’s inspiring, nostalgic and also very new and refreshing. My only qualm is that the music from the trailer wasn’t included in the actual film, and that saddens me because it really pulled at my heart strings.
I hope that, when I see The Last Jedi, I can tell you that Rian Johnson has taken everything that works about this film and makes it better, along with adding actual progression for our heroes and fixing the stagnant story that is the adventures of the Force Awakens. Furthermore, I hope that we get a chance to see Hamill and Fisher truly shine like Harrison Ford did in this film.
All-in-all, I give it:
For being serviceable, but ultimately disappointing in that it’s a classic case of style over substance.