The new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, treads carefully into the arms of an already established and hard to please fan base, making sure to respect its predecessors and leaving with an impressive movie nonetheless. Director J.J. Abrams clearly put an enormous amount of effort in, aware that too many expectations were riding on the film for him to have as much freedom as he would have liked. However, this burden on his conscience made for an enjoyable film with some wonderful details on the way.
One of the heavily considered points for Abrams was the signature cinematography and editing that characterised the original trilogy. Sliding transitions were an obvious must, but one of the other opportunities this film had for paying their respects was in their ability to show the old world of the original trilogy with the magic of twenty-first century effects. One of the first scenes of the film takes advantage of this as Daisy Ridley rides a speeder through the desert with a fallen Empire ship in the background, creating a feel of the sheer immensity of these ships compared to a person. In other scenes we are delighted with more great shots, maintaining a fast pace without losing track of presenting the incredible world of Star Wars.
The casting for the film is approached safely. The roles of the new protagonists are given to relatively fresh faces, avoiding any strong opposition toward big names being inserted in the Star Wars universe. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver work well as the rival apprentices of the Force, both clashing from either side of good and evil with a lot of power and still a lot to learn. However, the most pleasant surprise was in John Boyega’s role as Finn: a frightened Stormtrooper who becomes likeable within the first two or three lines of dialogue he delivers. Boyega’s performance makes for a perfect blend of naivety, compassion, comic timing and heroism. Returning with an excellent performance, Harrison Ford also charmed his way through the film as Han Solo, delivering the same coolness and humour from his past films as Solo.
Another solid decision was made by bringing back a more relaxed form of dialogue to mirror the original trilogy. Unlike the very formal and awkward Jedi conversations in the prequels, The Force Awakens brought back casual tones and speeches, which not only made the dialogue feel more natural but also allowed for many of the film’s jokes to be self-reflective and conscious. We see many instances that make fun of old tropes such as Poe Dameron wondering who should speak first during a face-off, or Rey getting annoyed at having to hold hands with Finn whenever they are being chased. But The Force Awakens limits these moments to a good number, so as not to lose sight of the magic of the universe presented to them.
Of course, a film doesn’t come without its flaws, and the most noticeable ones stand as concerns for the future films in this new series. Though Driver executed Kylo Ren well, the decision to make the character inexperienced as well as conflicted between good and evil damaged the dramatic tension of the story line. As part of a series, it’s almost inevitable that the protagonists will turn out fine in the first film, but the choice to make Kylo Ren insecure and unstable diverted their desired outcome for a wild card toward an unconfident and unexciting villain. Additionally, there were various parallels to the story line of the first film of the original trilogy, A New Hope. This made it seem as if there was no new story to tell while also leaving a fear of the next films being parallels of the rest of the original trilogy. As a counter point and a bit of wishful thinking, the parallels are not a crime, but will hopefully be the criticism needed for the next films to deviate from echoing past plots too much.
Ultimately, The Force Awakens was a film about fun. It returned to many of the elements that made the first films great and found ways of playing with these features and making them enjoyable from a modern-day viewpoint. Are there issues? Undoubtedly. However the film managed what it set out to do, to create an air of nostalgia and gratification while still being able to joke about itself. As a whole new introduction with heavy expectations, this film was a success.
By Thomas Rososchansky.