Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Tea: Three-Cinnamon Tea
It is finally here: The next entry in the Star Wars saga that is finally not going to be thrown into the Sarlacc pit of being declared not canon. With the immensely high expectations to live up to, The Force Awakens finds itself in a rather difficult position. No movie franchise has this amount of hype surrounding it and arguably there should not be such a movie franchise. But that is not the main point here. The question is: Does The Force Awakens open up the galaxy for a new era of good movies, or is it the next Phantom Menace to the Saga. The following review does not contain major spoilers, so calm down. I will publish a full spoiler review of the movie later on, but for now everything remains hidden in the shadows.
The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The Empire was destroyed but in its place a new organisation, the First Order, has formed. Led by the mysterious new villain Kylo Ren and his legion of Stormtroopers. The plot follows Finn, a deserter of said Order, and Rey, a young woman living the exciting life of a junk collector on a desert planet. Together they must bring the ball robot BB-8 back to the resistance and help them defeat this rising Empire-replacement. Along their journey they will make new allies that will be familiar to fans of the old trilogy.
– Meet the heroes of a new generation –
If all of that sounds very familiar, it’s because it is. Large plot elements and even scenes are lifted straight from parts of the old trilogy. This way the nostalgia factor can be turned up to maximum and you inevitable feel like you are watching the old movies, because you literally are. That being said the plot is actually not that bad and manages to capture you from the start with a lot of high paced sequences. Later is slows down a lot, a bit too much for its own good, but near the end it manages to effectively raise the stakes again and deliver solid final act, albeit be it with a little too drawn out ending sequence. The plot, however, is not the strongest aspect of this movie, since this is defiantly the characters.
– The Third Reich analogy goes even further than this in the movie –
When I mean characters I mean new characters, since oddly enough they all did a better job than the original cast. All new leading roles did a fantastic job as the new characters. Their arcs had impact and did not feel contrived. They had agendas and values of their own not dictated by either Jedi or Sith philosophy. The best actor, in my humble opinion, was Oscar Isaac. He was incredible in Ex Machina and he was incredible in this. The man is simply and amazing actor. I also enjoyed the character of Kylo Ren, even though I am not 100% sold on the choice of actor that was made here. It definitely gets better towards the end, but in the middle he has trouble portraying the character he is supposed to (I have to dance around spoilers, remember). That being said his character is engaging and a welcome diversion from the blind hate filled Sith we have come to know in the prequels. He is a character himself with struggles and motivations that can be in conflict and that makes his decisions more meaningful. Overall the cast was solid, although acting talent is found more among the new cast rather than the old one.
– Finally a villain that is not simple hate and anger inside a black robe –
Visually the movie is impressive. Of course it is; what isn’t these days? Although there also seem to be a few practical effects rather than simple CGI created creatures among the many life forms in this movie. Or maybe the CGI was simply so good I couldn’t tell the difference. Either way, it is exactly this feeling of living creatures that gives life to movies and incidentally is exactly what made the prequels feel so lifeless, since most of it was filmed in front of green screens. The flight sequences were equally well done and made me feel involved in the action rather than simply an observer. And what would Star Wars be without a lightsabre fight and it certainly delivers. Gone are the time of over-choreographed fights like the prequels and also the days of slow lightsabre touching from the originals. The fight feels energetic without being frantic. Lightsabres have a certain heaviness to them and are actually swung like swords and not glow sticks. They slice through the environment and simply feel good. Even that weird cross-guard lightsabre that caused such a huge uproar gets a little legitimacy for the design, not as a typical cross-guard would be used, however.
– Actual people in costumes is exactly the kind of magic Star Wars desperately needed –
While there was a lot on enjoyment to be had, there were also some parts I didn’t enjoy. Sadly, the biggest disappointment was the soundtrack. John Williams delivered the iconic and excellent score for the other movies, but this one feels devoid of ideas. There is not a single piece of music that stuck with me. There is a lot of call-back to older tracks, but nearly no original compositions that had any lasting impact. No Imperial March or Across the Stars can be found here, only interchangeable Star Wars white noise.
Another thing that made me cringe in my seat a few times were the dialogues. Star Wars is known for not being the best written piece of media out there and this movies surely is no exception. Certain exchanges felt horribly forced (forced, hahaha….) and bore as little resemblance to human conversations as Jar Jar Binks to a well written character. Speaking of annoying characters there were none in this movie. What was there, however, was a huge amount of humour. Certainly more than I had expected and arguably a bit too much. Let me rephrase that, there was one scene where it was absolutely inappropriate and did not accomplish anything.
The Force Awakens plays things very safe. Using a lot of material from the original trilogy. But it does also dare to explore some, albeit be it small, uncharted territory of risk-taking. There are twists in this movie that I will not spoil. Some of them a blatantly obvious, while others are only very obvious. None the less, they fit the overall tone a grant the movie some seriousness in an otherwise light-hearted environment. And, of course, the next movie is set up in the end. After all, we will have two more of these in the future.
– I look forward to where this is going –
The first “new” Star Wars movie should definitely appease fans, even though I would have enjoyed a bit more risk taking. I was well, aware going into this, that it would be so saturated with nostalgia it would drip out from behind the curtains. That being said, it is certainly a lot more enjoyable than the prequel trilogy and also has more heart put into, also a lot better written characters. I look forward to seeing where things move after this and if they turn out like this I would be satisfied, not overwhelmed, but satisfied. I look forward to new adventures with these characters in a galaxy far far away.
Image sources in order of appearance:
- http://screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/Star-Wars-7-Character-Guide-Finn-Rey.jpg (Last date of access: 21.12.2015)
- http://screenrant.com/wp-content/uploads/star-wars-force-awakens-first-order.jpg (Last date of access: 21.12.2015)
- http://cdn.collider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/star-wars-7-force-awakens-kylo-ren-hi-res.jpg (Last date of access: 21.12.2015)
- http://d51ck0gypsxpo.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/images/Star_Wars_Force_Awakens_Kanata_castle.png (Last date of access: 21.12.2015)
- http://nerdist.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/StarWars_ForceAwakens.jpg (Last date of access: 21.12.2015)