After the monumental levels of hype and expectation that have surrounded the film since its announcement, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is finally here. Does Disney deliver? Short answer: not quite.
That isn’t to say The Force Awakens is a terrible film; there’s still fun to be had in the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga. The movie starts out strong as we are introduced to the new heroes: Rey, Finn and Poe (played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac respectively). Of the new cast, Oscar Isaac’s Poe proves to be the best of the bunch, a charismatic Han Solo-esque pilot. Unfortunately his character is underutilised, disappearing for most of the movie and only appearing again towards the conclusion. Daisy Ridley puts in a mostly solid performance as Rey, whilst John Boyega’s Finn is arguably the weakest of the trio, his character serving little importance as the story progresses. As their paths cross, they come across some familiar faces including returning characters Han Solo and Leia, for whom Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprise their iconic roles. Ford undoubtedly fares the best, as he effortlessly slips back into being the same old smuggler we all know and love, and puts in one of the best performances in the movie. Fisher on the other hand fails to make much impact in the few scenes her character is in.
Together our heroes must fight against the evil First Order (who are essentially a new version of the Empire), led by the films main villain Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. Driver gives a good performance as the menacing Ren, who retains a foreboding presence throughout the first half of the movie. However, as the plot develops, Ren ultimately falls flat as a villain once more is revealed about his character, and save for a crucial moment towards the final moments of the film, that menace is lost and eventually replaced by disappointment.
Whilst the Force Awakens starts out energetically and does well to establish the new characters and story, around the midpoint of the story is where the movie begins to falter. The pacing slows down to a crawl, and never really gains traction again until the climatic moments of the film. The story also borrows far too much from the original movies, in particular from A New Hope where certain plot points seem recycled to the point of absurdity. Whilst this was likely intentional to add nostalgic throwbacks, it leaves little room for much originality and makes the movie feel overly familiar and something we’ve all seen before.
Visually, the Force Awakens is a treat with bombastic set pieces and great special effects. The movie’s emphasis on practical effects serves it well, with a visual direction that harkens back to the original trilogy and makes the film fit seamlessly into the universe. Less impressive however is John William’s score. Usually a highlight of the Star Wars movies, here the legendary composer has opted for a less extravagant and more conservative sound that will disappoint those looking for something akin to the more memorable soundtracks of the previous six films.
Overall the Force Awakens is not quite a triumphant return so much as a fun but flawed entry in the franchise. A strong opening and some great action are marred by a weak villain and pacing issues, and in trying hard to retain the spirit of the original movies, it sacrifices its own originality with a story that feels overly familiar. For many that familiarity is not necessarily a bad thing, but for those seeking a fresh new Star Wars experience it’s hard to shake a slight feeling of disappointment.
By Taran Sidhu