Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The Force is pretty darn strong with this one!


Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • The Force is pretty darn strong with this one!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

  • The Force is pretty darn strong with this one!


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Daisy Ridley
John Boyega
Adam Driver
Harrison Ford
Domhnall Gleeson

Written by

Lawrence Kasdan
J. J. Abrams
Michael Arndt

Directed by

J. J. Abrams



What to Expect

Writing about The Force Awakens has probably been the most fascinating and difficult review of my life so far. Having grown up at the wrong end of the franchise’s spectrum, this writer ended up beginning his journey through the universe on a criminally wrong note.

I burnt my hands and had major trust issues, never to have returned.

All of it ended during the second half of this year, when a very good friend of mine made a rather fantastic case for the original trilogy in a way that absolutely nobody in my vicinity — everyone just chose to feign a heart attack at my confession of neither having seen, nor expressing an interest to watch, any part of the franchise — would ever be able to. Curious, I made my way through the first movie that began it all. And, all that cheesiness and inconsistent visual effects arising out of the disappointing special-edition reworks aside, I was drawn in.

I, an outsider to the franchise, had given in very quickly to how fantastic an almost forty-year old space opera in itself really felt.

But that’s the thing; as excited as I was about the newest movie, my dogged wonder was also supported by a layer of innate fear. We have, after all, have had three disappointing, if not entirely failed, additions to the initial trilogy. Add to that some films simply being pale fan services, and you’re probably aware of what I mean when I state I’ve been absolutely worried.

The thing is, I didn’t really need to be.

What’s it About?

On the desert planet of Jakku, loner Rey (Daisy Ridley; Scrawl) trades spare-parts for food portions to make ends meet. Of course, as fate would have it, she crosses paths with BB-8, a state of the art droid who needs to get back to its master, and (later) redeemed stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega; Attack the Block), not knowing her interactions with them will kickstart an adventure that’s always been written in her destiny.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. TM. All Right Reserved.

Uh oh! We’re trapped!

Now, this movie is not perfect. There are so many plot threads that were too perfunctory for emotional relevance and could never really come to a proper conclusion. Moreover, there are quite a few rather noisily promoted characters that, one would definitely feel, needed more screen time than they ended up having to deal with. Added to that, Han Solo and Leia’s track, heartbreaking as it may have been, was highly expository (have we not learnt anything from the rather awkward monologue by Anne Hathaway in Interstellar?).

Most of these, and a few more (that need not be spoilt) have definitive reasons of why they’re included in the film, and as much as I’d love to explain the justification of the makers in trying to pull that off, I’ll second Maz Kanata from the film by silently stating, “That is a story for another time, perhaps.” One thing that I would, however, like to state would be to wait for the next episode, if only to see whether the unestablished and the unanswered were a deliberate strategy by the makers or a major slip-up. Rian Johnson, you have a rather telling burden on your shoulders; I hope you’ve completely understood that.

A major stickler one might have toward the film would come from the fact that The Force Awakens is rather disappointingly safe, and its narrative runs eerily on the trajectory of the 1977 original. We’re served an introduction, an unsaid history, a potential adventure, a dangerous antagonist, vivid brushstrokes of tragedy, and a rather closed-ended conclusion to the story before viewers move to a cliffhanger akin to the narrative formula of The Empire Strikes Back. While this does unfortunately wear out on the novelty factor of the film to a large extent, it does not – by any means – speak for the film’s overall strength when it comes to watchability. One must understand that despite the rather telling bit of narrative issues, the film is an absolutely solid big-screen spectacle. Director J. J. Abrams fully understands what’s at stake here, and while he is quite the terrific choice for the rather gorgeous action set pieces he’s created, it’s not all he’s at the director’s seat for.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Run!

Abrams has made a breathless film that keeps going from one set-piece to another. He doesn’t, however, fear that minute-or-two long breather where he allows the characters to understand themselves and each other. A rather expository exchange between Han and Leia has a strong potential to be forgiven and forgotten, simply because of how spellbinding the silences between them work. This strategy, interestingly, also goes in favor the antagonist, for there are quite a few moments of justified vulnerability present within the character. Kylo Ren is attached to serious history, and (for a very specific reason that I cannot spoil to explain further) when he reacts with extreme volatility — quite unlike the historical calm of Darth Vader — his actions make perfect sense.

But really, why viewers want to watch the film is to relive all that nostalgia on the big screen. The establishing shot of the Millennium Falcon, and — later — the entry of Han and Chewbacca will have ensured a thunderous applause. John William’s score has the potential to hark back in viewers vivid memories of previous Star Wars films it attempts to bring the glory back from. The score consists of classic, heavy orchestration that has the potential to simultaneously sound archaic and (spiritually) feel futuristic. The visual effects supervisor understands the balance between computer generated imagery and practical effects, and, with his ginormous team, helps blend them both in gorgeously. The production design of the film in itself includes locations like Abu Dhabi and Ireland, among the many rather picturesque ones the makers choose to make the far, far away galaxies look as surreal as possible. Abrams’ regular cinematographic collaborator Dan Mindel (Star Trek Into Darkness) is, quite simply, brilliant. Understanding space well, there are many scenes where the composition of a wide-angle frame allows you to understand how alone or distant one is from the self, or from a particular character.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  L to R: Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)  Ph: David James  © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

So, you need a pilot?

One of the real backbones of the film, however, is the performances. I cannot stress how much this needs to be understood, but fact is that despite the original trilogy being a rather enjoyable one, the biggest drawback with the entire set of films was how cheesy the performances, among many other things, felt. Not anymore. Carrie Fisher is extraordinary as Leia Organa. The fact that her character comes with baggage requires her to have some restraint. And restraint she gives. She’s an excellent source of unsaid history that viewers who haven’t been introduced prior will want to understand. Harrison Ford comes in a close second, but has to potential to lose audiences for making them feel like he may have been lifelessly winging it (which isn’t entirely true).

Let us, however, focus on the biggest performative surprises of the film. Daisy Ridley, who is an impressive find for her character, gives it her all. While her arc feels like Luke Skywalker’s in quite a few places, it doesn’t really matter. Not only does she fulfill every single turn of her character arc; she also ends up turning Rey into one of the stronger (whilst being extremely human) female characters we’ve had this year in cinema (no, Furiosa still deserves the top spot). John Boyega lends an equally impressive act, whilst being occasionally overshadowed by Ridley. This is probably the first time one will have seen any stormtrooper having even an inkling worth of self-doubt, and Boyega seems to understand the writers’ need to reveal that side of the story pretty well. He is fantastic, and allows viewers to expect a lot more from him in the coming episodes of the franchise. And then there’s Oscar Isaac. He does practically nothing more than to be absolutely awesome. Sometimes, that’s the only thing you’d want out of some people though, and that’s perfectly okay.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)  Ph: David James  ©Lucasfilm 2015

DARK SIDE SWAG!

Lupita Nyong’o is rather impressive, and while I can see that her motion capture performance isn’t the kind that will elicit an entirely positive response (due to viewers favoring practical effects), it doesn’t completely deny her character’s mysteriousness and her ability to exude the right amount of strength to it. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke is good, but his character seems to bring forth more questions than the makers manage to answer. Moreover, there seems to be a lot of parallels between Snoke and later Palpatine, and that probably hinders chances of standing out a lot. Domhnall Gleeson sneers throughout the film, reminding viewers of Lucius and Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies – which may not entirely be a good thing. Unless his character is built up appropriately in the future, one will find his (rather wide array of) talent being wasted. Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma is… there. She does nothing beyond existing and mouthing some stern dialogue. Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca is still one of the most adored characters on screen for more reasons than one. There’s a sense of nostalgia audiences will love to return to when “Chewie” returns with his longtime friend Solo, and despite the amount of prosthetics Mayhew may have had to go through for this, there is still the unmistakable emotional relevance the Wookie is still able to transport to the minds of those watching him. And that’s brilliant.

But the real source of mystery comes from the performance of Adam Driver. Many will look at him and remark, “He’s not as great as Darth Vader.” But Driver, when looked at carefully, does have a justifiable reason for performing the way he does. The screenwriters know exactly how they want to portray Ren, and on close look, Driver only really hits the nail on the head with his contribution to the character.

Worth it?

Answering this question has been a really difficult journey for me, really. But one must understand this: this will specifically polarize this audience type that has fed on an almost religiously purist dose of the original trilogy. Many plot points have the potential to feel quite hackneyed; some might find them forced in. Furthermore, the universe’s politics, when look at from a macro angle, doesn’t seem to matter at most points — and that is probably because this is more of a backdoor-reboot of the franchise than anything else, primarily because of how similar to Star Wars (I am not calling it its other name, nope) this really looks like.

As a big-screen spectacle — or even a wrapped-up-in-a-blanket home viewing experience later in life — however, this works beautifully. Despite the narrative pitfalls, The Force Awakens rightly feels like an emotionally relevant, full-bodied film. From an understandable business perspective, the film may definitely be a safe bet for Disney to kickstart their association with Lucasfilms. That being said, the stellar performances from the new additions to the cast (Isaac, Ridley and Boyega to name more than the rest), visually engrossing action set-pieces and a great throwback to the films of yore prove that it ain’t by any mile any less wondrously thrilling than it is right now.

The Star Wars franchise is back. And it’s here to stay. ‘Cause the Force is actually pretty strong enough with The Force Awakens.

Consensus: 3.5 Stars
A-Okay!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us


Rated

PG-13

Starring

Daisy Ridley
John Boyega
Adam Driver
Harrison Ford
Domhnall Gleeson

Written by

Lawrence Kasdan
J. J. Abrams
Michael Arndt

Directed by

J. J. Abrams



What to Expect

Writing about The Force Awakens has probably been the most fascinating and difficult review of my life so far. Having grown up at the wrong end of the franchise’s spectrum, this writer ended up beginning his journey through the universe on a criminally wrong note.

I burnt my hands and had major trust issues, never to have returned.

All of it ended during the second half of this year, when a very good friend of mine made a rather fantastic case for the original trilogy in a way that absolutely nobody in my vicinity — everyone just chose to feign a heart attack at my confession of neither having seen, nor expressing an interest to watch, any part of the franchise — would ever be able to. Curious, I made my way through the first movie that began it all. And, all that cheesiness and inconsistent visual effects arising out of the disappointing special-edition reworks aside, I was drawn in.

I, an outsider to the franchise, had given in very quickly to how fantastic an almost forty-year old space opera in itself really felt.

But that’s the thing; as excited as I was about the newest movie, my dogged wonder was also supported by a layer of innate fear. We have, after all, have had three disappointing, if not entirely failed, additions to the initial trilogy. Add to that some films simply being pale fan services, and you’re probably aware of what I mean when I state I’ve been absolutely worried.

The thing is, I didn’t really need to be.

What’s it About?

On the desert planet of Jakku, loner Rey (Daisy Ridley; Scrawl) trades spare-parts for food portions to make ends meet. Of course, as fate would have it, she crosses paths with BB-8, a state of the art droid who needs to get back to its master, and (later) redeemed stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega; Attack the Block), not knowing her interactions with them will kickstart an adventure that’s always been written in her destiny.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. TM. All Right Reserved.

Uh oh! We’re trapped!

Now, this movie is not perfect. There are so many plot threads that were too perfunctory for emotional relevance and could never really come to a proper conclusion. Moreover, there are quite a few rather noisily promoted characters that, one would definitely feel, needed more screen time than they ended up having to deal with. Added to that, Han Solo and Leia’s track, heartbreaking as it may have been, was highly expository (have we not learnt anything from the rather awkward monologue by Anne Hathaway in Interstellar?).

Most of these, and a few more (that need not be spoilt) have definitive reasons of why they’re included in the film, and as much as I’d love to explain the justification of the makers in trying to pull that off, I’ll second Maz Kanata from the film by silently stating, “That is a story for another time, perhaps.” One thing that I would, however, like to state would be to wait for the next episode, if only to see whether the unestablished and the unanswered were a deliberate strategy by the makers or a major slip-up. Rian Johnson, you have a rather telling burden on your shoulders; I hope you’ve completely understood that.

A major stickler one might have toward the film would come from the fact that The Force Awakens is rather disappointingly safe, and its narrative runs eerily on the trajectory of the 1977 original. We’re served an introduction, an unsaid history, a potential adventure, a dangerous antagonist, vivid brushstrokes of tragedy, and a rather closed-ended conclusion to the story before viewers move to a cliffhanger akin to the narrative formula of The Empire Strikes Back. While this does unfortunately wear out on the novelty factor of the film to a large extent, it does not – by any means – speak for the film’s overall strength when it comes to watchability. One must understand that despite the rather telling bit of narrative issues, the film is an absolutely solid big-screen spectacle. Director J. J. Abrams fully understands what’s at stake here, and while he is quite the terrific choice for the rather gorgeous action set pieces he’s created, it’s not all he’s at the director’s seat for.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Run!

Abrams has made a breathless film that keeps going from one set-piece to another. He doesn’t, however, fear that minute-or-two long breather where he allows the characters to understand themselves and each other. A rather expository exchange between Han and Leia has a strong potential to be forgiven and forgotten, simply because of how spellbinding the silences between them work. This strategy, interestingly, also goes in favor the antagonist, for there are quite a few moments of justified vulnerability present within the character. Kylo Ren is attached to serious history, and (for a very specific reason that I cannot spoil to explain further) when he reacts with extreme volatility — quite unlike the historical calm of Darth Vader — his actions make perfect sense.

But really, why viewers want to watch the film is to relive all that nostalgia on the big screen. The establishing shot of the Millennium Falcon, and — later — the entry of Han and Chewbacca will have ensured a thunderous applause. John William’s score has the potential to hark back in viewers vivid memories of previous Star Wars films it attempts to bring the glory back from. The score consists of classic, heavy orchestration that has the potential to simultaneously sound archaic and (spiritually) feel futuristic. The visual effects supervisor understands the balance between computer generated imagery and practical effects, and, with his ginormous team, helps blend them both in gorgeously. The production design of the film in itself includes locations like Abu Dhabi and Ireland, among the many rather picturesque ones the makers choose to make the far, far away galaxies look as surreal as possible. Abrams’ regular cinematographic collaborator Dan Mindel (Star Trek Into Darkness) is, quite simply, brilliant. Understanding space well, there are many scenes where the composition of a wide-angle frame allows you to understand how alone or distant one is from the self, or from a particular character.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  L to R: Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac)  Ph: David James  © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

So, you need a pilot?

One of the real backbones of the film, however, is the performances. I cannot stress how much this needs to be understood, but fact is that despite the original trilogy being a rather enjoyable one, the biggest drawback with the entire set of films was how cheesy the performances, among many other things, felt. Not anymore. Carrie Fisher is extraordinary as Leia Organa. The fact that her character comes with baggage requires her to have some restraint. And restraint she gives. She’s an excellent source of unsaid history that viewers who haven’t been introduced prior will want to understand. Harrison Ford comes in a close second, but has to potential to lose audiences for making them feel like he may have been lifelessly winging it (which isn’t entirely true).

Let us, however, focus on the biggest performative surprises of the film. Daisy Ridley, who is an impressive find for her character, gives it her all. While her arc feels like Luke Skywalker’s in quite a few places, it doesn’t really matter. Not only does she fulfill every single turn of her character arc; she also ends up turning Rey into one of the stronger (whilst being extremely human) female characters we’ve had this year in cinema (no, Furiosa still deserves the top spot). John Boyega lends an equally impressive act, whilst being occasionally overshadowed by Ridley. This is probably the first time one will have seen any stormtrooper having even an inkling worth of self-doubt, and Boyega seems to understand the writers’ need to reveal that side of the story pretty well. He is fantastic, and allows viewers to expect a lot more from him in the coming episodes of the franchise. And then there’s Oscar Isaac. He does practically nothing more than to be absolutely awesome. Sometimes, that’s the only thing you’d want out of some people though, and that’s perfectly okay.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens  Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)  Ph: David James  ©Lucasfilm 2015

DARK SIDE SWAG!

Lupita Nyong’o is rather impressive, and while I can see that her motion capture performance isn’t the kind that will elicit an entirely positive response (due to viewers favoring practical effects), it doesn’t completely deny her character’s mysteriousness and her ability to exude the right amount of strength to it. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke is good, but his character seems to bring forth more questions than the makers manage to answer. Moreover, there seems to be a lot of parallels between Snoke and later Palpatine, and that probably hinders chances of standing out a lot. Domhnall Gleeson sneers throughout the film, reminding viewers of Lucius and Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies – which may not entirely be a good thing. Unless his character is built up appropriately in the future, one will find his (rather wide array of) talent being wasted. Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma is… there. She does nothing beyond existing and mouthing some stern dialogue. Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca is still one of the most adored characters on screen for more reasons than one. There’s a sense of nostalgia audiences will love to return to when “Chewie” returns with his longtime friend Solo, and despite the amount of prosthetics Mayhew may have had to go through for this, there is still the unmistakable emotional relevance the Wookie is still able to transport to the minds of those watching him. And that’s brilliant.

But the real source of mystery comes from the performance of Adam Driver. Many will look at him and remark, “He’s not as great as Darth Vader.” But Driver, when looked at carefully, does have a justifiable reason for performing the way he does. The screenwriters know exactly how they want to portray Ren, and on close look, Driver only really hits the nail on the head with his contribution to the character.

Worth it?

Answering this question has been a really difficult journey for me, really. But one must understand this: this will specifically polarize this audience type that has fed on an almost religiously purist dose of the original trilogy. Many plot points have the potential to feel quite hackneyed; some might find them forced in. Furthermore, the universe’s politics, when look at from a macro angle, doesn’t seem to matter at most points — and that is probably because this is more of a backdoor-reboot of the franchise than anything else, primarily because of how similar to Star Wars (I am not calling it its other name, nope) this really looks like.

As a big-screen spectacle — or even a wrapped-up-in-a-blanket home viewing experience later in life — however, this works beautifully. Despite the narrative pitfalls, The Force Awakens rightly feels like an emotionally relevant, full-bodied film. From an understandable business perspective, the film may definitely be a safe bet for Disney to kickstart their association with Lucasfilms. That being said, the stellar performances from the new additions to the cast (Isaac, Ridley and Boyega to name more than the rest), visually engrossing action set-pieces and a great throwback to the films of yore prove that it ain’t by any mile any less wondrously thrilling than it is right now.

The Star Wars franchise is back. And it’s here to stay. ‘Cause the Force is actually pretty strong enough with The Force Awakens.

Consensus: 3.5 Stars
A-Okay!
About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

Watch the trailer

We’re viral

Like UsFollow Us

Cast Daisy Ridley
John Boyega
Adam Driver
Director J. J. Abrams
Consensus: 3.5 Stars
A-Okay!

What to Expect

There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?

There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?

Writing about The Force Awakens has probably been the most fascinating and difficult review of my life so far. Having grown up at the wrong end of the franchise’s spectrum, this writer ended up beginning his journey through the universe on a criminally wrong note.

I burnt my hands and had major trust issues, never to have returned.

All of it ended during the second half of this year, when a very good friend of mine made a rather fantastic case for the original trilogy in a way that absolutely nobody in my vicinity — everyone just chose to feign a heart attack at my confession of neither having seen, nor expressing an interest to watch, any part of the franchise — would ever be able to. Curious, I made my way through the first movie that began it all. And, all that cheesiness and inconsistent visual effects arising out of the disappointing special-edition reworks aside, I was drawn in.

I, an outsider to the franchise, had given in very quickly to how fantastic an almost forty-year old space opera in itself really felt.

But that’s the thing; as excited as I was about the newest movie, my dogged wonder was also supported by a layer of innate fear. We have, after all, have had three disappointing, if not entirely failed, additions to the initial trilogy. Add to that some films simply being pale fan services, and you’re probably aware of what I mean when I state I’ve been absolutely worried.

The thing is, I didn’t really need to be.

What’s it About?

On the desert planet of Jakku, loner Rey (Daisy Ridley; Scrawl) trades spare-parts for food portions to make ends meet. Of course, as fate would have it, she crosses paths with BB-8, a state of the art droid who needs to get back to its master, and (later) redeemed stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega; Attack the Block), not knowing her interactions with them will kickstart an adventure that’s always been written in her destiny.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. TM. All Right Reserved.

Uh oh! We’re trapped!

Now, this movie is not perfect. There are so many plot threads that were too perfunctory for emotional relevance and could never really come to a proper conclusion. Moreover, there are quite a few rather noisily promoted characters that, one would definitely feel, needed more screen time than they ended up having to deal with. Added to that, Han Solo and Leia’s track, heartbreaking as it may have been, was highly expository (have we not learnt anything from the rather awkward monologue by Anne Hathaway in Interstellar?).

Most of these, and a few more (that need not be spoilt) have definitive reasons of why they’re included in the film, and as much as I’d love to explain the justification of the makers in trying to pull that off, I’ll second Maz Kanata from the film by silently stating, “That is a story for another time, perhaps.” One thing that I would, however, like to state would be to wait for the next episode, if only to see whether the unestablished and the unanswered were a deliberate strategy by the makers or a major slip-up. Rian Johnson, you have a rather telling burden on your shoulders; I hope you’ve completely understood that.

A major stickler one might have toward the film would come from the fact that The Force Awakens is rather disappointingly safe, and its narrative runs eerily on the trajectory of the 1977 original. We’re served an introduction, an unsaid history, a potential adventure, a dangerous antagonist, vivid brushstrokes of tragedy, and a rather closed-ended conclusion to the story before viewers move to a cliffhanger akin to the narrative formula of The Empire Strikes Back. While this does unfortunately wear out on the novelty factor of the film to a large extent, it does not – by any means – speak for the film’s overall strength when it comes to watchability. One must understand that despite the rather telling bit of narrative issues, the film is an absolutely solid big-screen spectacle. Director J. J. Abrams fully understands what’s at stake here, and while he is quite the terrific choice for the rather gorgeous action set pieces he’s created, it’s not all he’s at the director’s seat for.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

Run!

Abrams has made a breathless film that keeps going from one set-piece to another. He doesn’t, however, fear that minute-or-two long breather where he allows the characters to understand themselves and each other. A rather expository exchange between Han and Leia has a strong potential to be forgiven and forgotten, simply because of how spellbinding the silences between them work. This strategy, interestingly, also goes in favor the antagonist, for there are quite a few moments of justified vulnerability present within the character. Kylo Ren is attached to serious history, and (for a very specific reason that I cannot spoil to explain further) when he reacts with extreme volatility — quite unlike the historical calm of Darth Vader — his actions make perfect sense.

But really, why viewers want to watch the film is to relive all that nostalgia on the big screen. The establishing shot of the Millennium Falcon, and — later — the entry of Han and Chewbacca will have ensured a thunderous applause. John William’s score has the potential to hark back in viewers vivid memories of previous Star Wars films it attempts to bring the glory back from. The score consists of classic, heavy orchestration that has the potential to simultaneously sound archaic and (spiritually) feel futuristic. The visual effects supervisor understands the balance between computer generated imagery and practical effects, and, with his ginormous team, helps blend them both in gorgeously. The production design of the film in itself includes locations like Abu Dhabi and Ireland, among the many rather picturesque ones the makers choose to make the far, far away galaxies look as surreal as possible. Abrams’ regular cinematographic collaborator Dan Mindel (Star Trek Into Darkness) is, quite simply, brilliant. Understanding space well, there are many scenes where the composition of a wide-angle frame allows you to understand how alone or distant one is from the self, or from a particular character.

To Perform or Not to Perform

Star Wars: The Force Awakens L to R: Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) Ph: David James © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

So, you need a pilot?

One of the real backbones of the film, however, is the performances. I cannot stress how much this needs to be understood, but fact is that despite the original trilogy being a rather enjoyable one, the biggest drawback with the entire set of films was how cheesy the performances, among many other things, felt. Not anymore. Carrie Fisher is extraordinary as Leia Organa. The fact that her character comes with baggage requires her to have some restraint. And restraint she gives. She’s an excellent source of unsaid history that viewers who haven’t been introduced prior will want to understand. Harrison Ford comes in a close second, but has to potential to lose audiences for making them feel like he may have been lifelessly winging it (which isn’t entirely true).

Let us, however, focus on the biggest performative surprises of the film. Daisy Ridley, who is an impressive find for her character, gives it her all. While her arc feels like Luke Skywalker’s in quite a few places, it doesn’t really matter. Not only does she fulfill every single turn of her character arc; she also ends up turning Rey into one of the stronger (whilst being extremely human) female characters we’ve had this year in cinema (no, Furiosa still deserves the top spot). John Boyega lends an equally impressive act, whilst being occasionally overshadowed by Ridley. This is probably the first time one will have seen any stormtrooper having even an inkling worth of self-doubt, and Boyega seems to understand the writers’ need to reveal that side of the story pretty well. He is fantastic, and allows viewers to expect a lot more from him in the coming episodes of the franchise. And then there’s Oscar Isaac. He does practically nothing more than to be absolutely awesome. Sometimes, that’s the only thing you’d want out of some people though, and that’s perfectly okay.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) Ph: David James ©Lucasfilm 2015

DARK SIDE SWAG!

Lupita Nyong’o is rather impressive, and while I can see that her motion capture performance isn’t the kind that will elicit an entirely positive response (due to viewers favoring practical effects), it doesn’t completely deny her character’s mysteriousness and her ability to exude the right amount of strength to it. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke is good, but his character seems to bring forth more questions than the makers manage to answer. Moreover, there seems to be a lot of parallels between Snoke and later Palpatine, and that probably hinders chances of standing out a lot. Domhnall Gleeson sneers throughout the film, reminding viewers of Lucius and Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies – which may not entirely be a good thing. Unless his character is built up appropriately in the future, one will find his (rather wide array of) talent being wasted. Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma is… there. She does nothing beyond existing and mouthing some stern dialogue. Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca is still one of the most adored characters on screen for more reasons than one. There’s a sense of nostalgia audiences will love to return to when “Chewie” returns with his longtime friend Solo, and despite the amount of prosthetics Mayhew may have had to go through for this, there is still the unmistakable emotional relevance the Wookie is still able to transport to the minds of those watching him. And that’s brilliant.

But the real source of mystery comes from the performance of Adam Driver. Many will look at him and remark, “He’s not as great as Darth Vader.” But Driver, when looked at carefully, does have a justifiable reason for performing the way he does. The screenwriters know exactly how they want to portray Ren, and on close look, Driver only really hits the nail on the head with his contribution to the character.

Worth it?

Answering this question has been a really difficult journey for me, really. But one must understand this: this will specifically polarize this audience type that has fed on an almost religiously purist dose of the original trilogy. Many plot points have the potential to feel quite hackneyed; some might find them forced in. Furthermore, the universe’s politics, when look at from a macro angle, doesn’t seem to matter at most points — and that is probably because this is more of a backdoor-reboot of the franchise than anything else, primarily because of how similar to Star Wars (I am not calling it its other name, nope) this really looks like.

As a big-screen spectacle — or even a wrapped-up-in-a-blanket home viewing experience later in life — however, this works beautifully. Despite the narrative pitfalls, The Force Awakens rightly feels like an emotionally relevant, full-bodied film. From an understandable business perspective, the film may definitely be a safe bet for Disney to kickstart their association with Lucasfilms. That being said, the stellar performances from the new additions to the cast (Isaac, Ridley and Boyega to name more than the rest), visually engrossing action set-pieces and a great throwback to the films of yore prove that it ain’t by any mile any less wondrously thrilling than it is right now.

The Star Wars franchise is back. And it’s here to stay. ‘Cause the Force is actually pretty strong enough with The Force Awakens.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

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Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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Cast Daisy Ridley
John Boyega
Adam Driver
Director J. J. Abrams
Consensus: 3.5 Stars
A-Okay!

What to Expect

Writing about The Force Awakens has probably been the most fascinating and difficult review of my life so far. Having grown up at the wrong end of the franchise’s spectrum, this writer ended up beginning his journey through the universe on a criminally wrong note.

I burnt my hands and had major trust issues, never to have returned.

All of it ended during the second half of this year, when a very good friend of mine made a rather fantastic case for the original trilogy in a way that absolutely nobody in my vicinity — everyone just chose to feign a heart attack at my confession of neither having seen, nor expressing an interest to watch, any part of the franchise — would ever be able to. Curious, I made my way through the first movie that began it all. And, all that cheesiness and inconsistent visual effects arising out of the disappointing special-edition reworks aside, I was drawn in.

I, an outsider to the franchise, had given in very quickly to how fantastic an almost forty-year old space opera in itself really felt.

But that’s the thing; as excited as I was about the newest movie, my dogged wonder was also supported by a layer of innate fear. We have, after all, have had three disappointing, if not entirely failed, additions to the initial trilogy. Add to that some films simply being pale fan services, and you’re probably aware of what I mean when I state I’ve been absolutely worried.

The thing is, I didn’t really need to be.

What’s it About?

On the desert planet of Jakku, loner Rey (Daisy Ridley; Scrawl) trades spare-parts for food portions to make ends meet. Of course, as fate would have it, she crosses paths with BB-8, a state of the art droid who needs to get back to its master, and (later) redeemed stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega; Attack the Block), not knowing her interactions with them will kickstart an adventure that’s always been written in her destiny.

Uh oh! We're trapped!

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Now, this movie is not perfect. There are so many plot threads that were too perfunctory for emotional relevance and could never really come to a proper conclusion. Moreover, there are quite a few rather noisily promoted characters that, one would definitely feel, needed more screen time than they ended up having to deal with. Added to that, Han Solo and Leia’s track, heartbreaking as it may have been, was highly expository (have we not learnt anything from the rather awkward monologue by Anne Hathaway in Interstellar?).

Most of these, and a few more (that need not be spoilt) have definitive reasons of why they’re included in the film, and as much as I’d love to explain the justification of the makers in trying to pull that off, I’ll second Maz Kanata from the film by silently stating, “That is a story for another time, perhaps.” One thing that I would, however, like to state would be to wait for the next episode, if only to see whether the unestablished and the unanswered were a deliberate strategy by the makers or a major slip-up. Rian Johnson, you have a rather telling burden on your shoulders; I hope you’ve completely understood that.

A major stickler one might have toward the film would come from the fact that The Force Awakens is rather disappointingly safe, and its narrative runs eerily on the trajectory of the 1977 original. We’re served an introduction, an unsaid history, a potential adventure, a dangerous antagonist, vivid brushstrokes of tragedy, and a rather closed-ended conclusion to the story before viewers move to a cliffhanger akin to the narrative formula of The Empire Strikes Back. While this does unfortunately wear out on the novelty factor of the film to a large extent, it does not – by any means – speak for the film’s overall strength when it comes to watchability. One must understand that despite the rather telling bit of narrative issues, the film is an absolutely solid big-screen spectacle. Director J. J. Abrams fully understands what’s at stake here, and while he is quite the terrific choice for the rather gorgeous action set pieces he’s created, it’s not all he’s at the director’s seat for.

Run!

Abrams has made a breathless film that keeps going from one set-piece to another. He doesn’t, however, fear that minute-or-two long breather where he allows the characters to understand themselves and each other. A rather expository exchange between Han and Leia has a strong potential to be forgiven and forgotten, simply because of how spellbinding the silences between them work. This strategy, interestingly, also goes in favor the antagonist, for there are quite a few moments of justified vulnerability present within the character. Kylo Ren is attached to serious history, and (for a very specific reason that I cannot spoil to explain further) when he reacts with extreme volatility — quite unlike the historical calm of Darth Vader — his actions make perfect sense.

But really, why viewers want to watch the film is to relive all that nostalgia on the big screen. The establishing shot of the Millennium Falcon, and — later — the entry of Han and Chewbacca will have ensured a thunderous applause. John William’s score has the potential to hark back in viewers vivid memories of previous Star Wars films it attempts to bring the glory back from. The score consists of classic, heavy orchestration that has the potential to simultaneously sound archaic and (spiritually) feel futuristic. The visual effects supervisor understands the balance between computer generated imagery and practical effects, and, with his ginormous team, helps blend them both in gorgeously. The production design of the film in itself includes locations like Abu Dhabi and Ireland, among the many rather picturesque ones the makers choose to make the far, far away galaxies look as surreal as possible. Abrams’ regular cinematographic collaborator Dan Mindel (Star Trek Into Darkness) is, quite simply, brilliant. Understanding space well, there are many scenes where the composition of a wide-angle frame allows you to understand how alone or distant one is from the self, or from a particular character.

So, you need a pilot?

To Perform or Not to Perform

One of the real backbones of the film, however, is the performances. I cannot stress how much this needs to be understood, but fact is that despite the original trilogy being a rather enjoyable one, the biggest drawback with the entire set of films was how cheesy the performances, among many other things, felt. Not anymore. Carrie Fisher is extraordinary as Leia Organa. The fact that her character comes with baggage requires her to have some restraint. And restraint she gives. She’s an excellent source of unsaid history that viewers who haven’t been introduced prior will want to understand. Harrison Ford comes in a close second, but has to potential to lose audiences for making them feel like he may have been lifelessly winging it (which isn’t entirely true).

Let us, however, focus on the biggest performative surprises of the film. Daisy Ridley, who is an impressive find for her character, gives it her all. While her arc feels like Luke Skywalker’s in quite a few places, it doesn’t really matter. Not only does she fulfill every single turn of her character arc; she also ends up turning Rey into one of the stronger (whilst being extremely human) female characters we’ve had this year in cinema (no, Furiosa still deserves the top spot). John Boyega lends an equally impressive act, whilst being occasionally overshadowed by Ridley. This is probably the first time one will have seen any stormtrooper having even an inkling worth of self-doubt, and Boyega seems to understand the writers’ need to reveal that side of the story pretty well. He is fantastic, and allows viewers to expect a lot more from him in the coming episodes of the franchise. And then there’s Oscar Isaac. He does practically nothing more than to be absolutely awesome. Sometimes, that’s the only thing you’d want out of some people though, and that’s perfectly okay.

DARK SIDE SWAG!

Lupita Nyong’o is rather impressive, and while I can see that her motion capture performance isn’t the kind that will elicit an entirely positive response (due to viewers favoring practical effects), it doesn’t completely deny her character’s mysteriousness and her ability to exude the right amount of strength to it. Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke is good, but his character seems to bring forth more questions than the makers manage to answer. Moreover, there seems to be a lot of parallels between Snoke and later Palpatine, and that probably hinders chances of standing out a lot. Domhnall Gleeson sneers throughout the film, reminding viewers of Lucius and Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter franchise of books and movies – which may not entirely be a good thing. Unless his character is built up appropriately in the future, one will find his (rather wide array of) talent being wasted. Gwendolyn Christie as Captain Phasma is… there. She does nothing beyond existing and mouthing some stern dialogue. Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca is still one of the most adored characters on screen for more reasons than one. There’s a sense of nostalgia audiences will love to return to when “Chewie” returns with his longtime friend Solo, and despite the amount of prosthetics Mayhew may have had to go through for this, there is still the unmistakable emotional relevance the Wookie is still able to transport to the minds of those watching him. And that’s brilliant.

But the real source of mystery comes from the performance of Adam Driver. Many will look at him and remark, “He’s not as great as Darth Vader.” But Driver, when looked at carefully, does have a justifiable reason for performing the way he does. The screenwriters know exactly how they want to portray Ren, and on close look, Driver only really hits the nail on the head with his contribution to the character.

Worth it?

Answering this question has been a really difficult journey for me, really. But one must understand this: this will specifically polarize this audience type that has fed on an almost religiously purist dose of the original trilogy. Many plot points have the potential to feel quite hackneyed; some might find them forced in. Furthermore, the universe’s politics, when look at from a macro angle, doesn’t seem to matter at most points — and that is probably because this is more of a backdoor-reboot of the franchise than anything else, primarily because of how similar to Star Wars (I am not calling it its other name, nope) this really looks like.

As a big-screen spectacle — or even a wrapped-up-in-a-blanket home viewing experience later in life — however, this works beautifully. Despite the narrative pitfalls, The Force Awakens rightly feels like an emotionally relevant, full-bodied film. From an understandable business perspective, the film may definitely be a safe bet for Disney to kickstart their association with Lucasfilms. That being said, the stellar performances from the new additions to the cast (Isaac, Ridley and Boyega to name more than the rest), visually engrossing action set-pieces and a great throwback to the films of yore prove that it ain’t by any mile any less wondrously thrilling than it is right now.

The Star Wars franchise is back. And it’s here to stay. ‘Cause the Force is actually pretty strong enough with The Force Awakens.

About the Author

Ankit Ojha

Facebook

Ambivert. Intermittent cynic. Content creator. New media enthusiast. Binge-watcher. Budding filmmaker.

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