Right off the bat lets preface by saying that this review contains spoilers. Big frikkin spoilers that you could hang your festive decorations on. So if you haven’t seen the film yet, then turn back now.
The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film that we have had in ten years and it represents a much welcomed departure from the Lucas stuff-as-much-shit-on-a-blue-screen prequel era. With no immediately obvious references to the prequels in sight the film seems to treat the prequels as many of us have done, by pretending that they didn’t happen. We thankfully also haven’t had to endure clunky casting choices and wooden performances this time round. The acting is fantastic, notably main characters Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn who, despite having to contend with some occasionally cheesy dialogue deliver fantastic performances. Even the tricky role of Kylo Ren, who possesses personal data extraction skills that the NSA can only dream of, is played admirably by Adam Driver.
There are so many characters however that, in places, a sense of the relationships between them isn’t really given a chance to develop. R2D2, while hardly normally the most vital character in extending the narrative gets barely any screen time. The reason given is a slightly suspect allusion to robotic depression that occurred following the disappearance of Luke Skywalker. Could this have been scripted in as a means of reducing character interactions and thus film length? Another example of this is the apparent bond between Finn and Poe who seem rather fond of each other, despite us only witnessing a very limited onscreen interaction between the pair. It wouldn’t be surprising to find out that more was actually filmed between these two but didn’t make it to the final cut due to time constraints.
The film is stunning throughout its entirety with many scenes featuring beautiful landscapes such downed the Star Destroyer on the dunes of Jakku and the X-Wings announcing the arrival of the resistance in spectacular fashion over a lake on Takodana. It is also littered with various visual homages to the original trilogy, some of these subtle, some not so much, that will be a joy for fans to spot. Also helping weave the film into the fabric of the original Star Wars universe is the music of John Williams, who skillfully meshes new scores with a tantalising use of old ones.
The big shock of the film is of course the death of Han Solo. The audible level of gasps and mutterings of astonishment heard at screenings of those who had managed to miss spoilers underline how big a deal this is. More often than not kids would rather play at being perpetually cool Han Solo than Luke Skywalker and for many Star Wars was as much about the adventures of Han as it was the adventures of Luke. Back in reality however it’s perhaps a wise decision, as Harrison Ford may not have wanted to commit to being an ongoing presence in the following films. There isn’t enough screen time devoted to Chewbacca’s reaction to the death of Han, which may hail from the aforementioned potential lack of screen time that was available to each character. Chewbacca has just watched his sidekick of many years die and yet for some reason we are only treated to a couple of seconds of his anger and later another few seconds of his despondency after the final climatic battle.
So, is The Force Awakens as good as the originals? It isn’t as groundbreaking and there is simply so much going on during this film with so many characters that it cannot compare to the simplicity of the tales that made up the original trilogy. But it certainly comes close enough. It is an hugely entertaining film and Disney has managed to stay much truer to the feel of the originals than Lucas did with the prequels, while suggesting an exciting new direction for the franchise to follow. Unless Disney somehow implodes they are going to milk this cash cow for as long as possible, lets hope they can maintain this level of quality.