The Force Awoken.
It’s been ten years since the release of the last Star Wars film and now, thirty eight years after the series began, Episode VII arrives to continue this beloved story forward.
The plot of the film revolves around one of the series central characters who has gone missing. The story is very reminiscent of previous outings in the series, arguably too reminiscent at first, but as the film progresses the narrative gets considerably deeper and definitely more interesting. Small moments of clever fan service, Brilliant pacing and smart character development help to elevate a plot that, whist fun and interesting, occasionally feels a little thin on the ground. The Force Awakens does a good job of carving its own identity out of seasoned Star Wars parts.
Visually the film is utterly stunning*. Vibrant colours run rampant throughout the movie and even the films darkest moments benefit from the lively colour palette. The movie’s art direction deserves a special mention here for its grasp and realisation of the truly unique Star Wars aesthetic. Every part of the film looks distinctive, from locations to props to characters.
And what a great set of characters they are. The younger members of the cast, the newcomers to the franchise, fit in to the universe well and fall comfortably into their roles in the plot. The older cast members are just as strong as they have ever been. Special praise has to go out to Harrison Ford, who puts in arguably his strongest performance yet, as Han Solo. However there are two members of the cast who notably stand out for the quality of their performances. The first is Adam Driver, who brings a Sith lord to life in a way that hasn’t been seen in Star Wars before. He is violent, menacing and unnerving but he is also the most vulnerable antagonist that has been seen in the series to date. The other member of the cast who really shines is BB-8, the rolling ball droid, who plays a major part in the film from the first scene and communicates so much with no dialogue whatsoever. The droid is full to brim with adorable and understandable character and is a testament to the practical nature of the overall film.
The film is not only a joy to watch thanks to its beautiful visuals and incredible sense of scale, but it is also a joy to listen to. From the first bars of the opening theme John Williams’ trademark orchestral sound serves to underpin the films strongest moments. It will more than satisfy any long term fans of the series.
The film is not perfect, It does, at times, feel as though certain moments of narrative pay off should peak a little more than they do. On top of this the movie struggles occasionally with clunky dialogue but when considering the overall experience these are minor issues that do little to harm the thrill of viewing The Force Awakens.
Star Wars: Episode VII is a master class in many things: Art direction, character and world building, fan service, pacing, sound design and orchestral scores, practical effects and much much more. But most importantly, Episode VII is a master class in Star Wars, its full to the brim with unique aesthetics, sounds, characters and props. The film is a thrill to watch, hear and experience. its failings are minor but its successes are many and joyful.
On a 100 point scale I would rate this film: 9.4/10
*also on a quick side note, this is also the best use of 3d I’ve seen in a film for a while. Cleverly rendered particle effects during tense fight scenes help to engage the audience and the already huge scale of the film felt even bigger, one specific shot comes to mind: an establishing shot of a Star Destroyer. The huge ship stretched from one segment of its gigantic hull to the next right up to the bridge which felt distant, as though it were far away in a space rather than just on the back of a screen. It’s not essential to view the film in 3D, but I must admit, I would recommend it.