Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review


Yes, anyone who knows me knows that I love the Star Wars films, the original trilogy was something I grew up on and were some of the first films I went to the Cinema to see, this was back in the 90’s when they were re-released in the Cinema, I can’t remember the reason why, I suspect it was something to do with the Special Editions. After Revenge of the Sith, we all thought that was it, the films were over! Then we found out that Lucas films had sold the rights to Star Wars films to Disney and most people, myself included, thought that this was the final nail in the coffin considering that Disney were planning a sequel trilogy that would include episodes 7, 8 and 9. I was fairly against this from the first because I genuinely believe that Star Wars had a perfect ending. Whatever you think of Return of The Jedi and believe me there are plenty of things to complain about it was at least a very good conclusion and what it did well, it did well. Our hopes were at least built up when we found out that George Lucas was staying far away from these films and is really not contributing anything to it, which considering what he did to the prequel, that is probably a good deal. But, how do you expand Star Wars any more than it already has, this is one of the most expansive Sci-Fi Universes in fiction and of course when all the trailers and concepts were announced there was all sorts of debates as to which parts of the expansive universe were or were not in continuity any more, which have since been answered by a series of Marvel comics which have come out, which I should point out, even Shattered Empire which is a prequel comic to The Force Awakens is not necessary reading to enjoy the film. With all the stalling, how does The Force Awakens hold up? By the way, I know this review is out 2 weeks after the films release, but I will be keeping this review spoiler proof as I know a lot of people have been holding back, waiting for a time when there is less of a market and also for cheaper ticket prices.

The plot of The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill) has vanished without a trace, leaving a map to his location hidden inside a droid. Princess Leia (played by Carrie Fisher) sends out her best pilot, Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) to find it and deliver it back to her. However, the droid, after an attack from The First Order, led by Sith Lord Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver) causes the droid to fall into the hands of a defected stormtrooper Finn, (played by John Boyega) and scavenger Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), who now have to get the droid and the map to the resistance before The First Order can take it. I really can’t go into too much detail with the plot other than that. This really is a film you need to experience for yourself, but I am going to come out and say the plot is fantastic. It continues the Star Wars mythos almost perfectly, however I won’t say it’s a perfect narrative, but it is damn well close. The film almost feels like it’s the old guard passing on the torch to the new guard and it’s a very good new guard. Finn and Rey who are the new main characters in the series are a joy to watch and they complement each other perfectly. There was a really big build up to how much the old cast were going the play in this film and it varies to a certain degree. There isn’t much from Princess Leia in this film, C-3P0 is basically on the sidelines but does at least contribute something, R2D2 is virtually absent, though his replacement BB8 is a decent substitute and has some enjoying features to him that look like they were a joy to animate by the special effects department. Also, anyone hoping that Luke Skywalker was going to make a big impact on this film are probably going to be disappointed. Without giving too much away, he really is not in the film as much as the fans would like, but the build up to his appearance is expertly done. He is more treated like a myth and legend, mainly as symbolism for how Star Wars fans see the franchise, to such an extent that many people in the cast believe Luke to be simply a myth and a legend, more likely down to The First Order’s propaganda. I also really enjoyed Poe Dameron. When I first saw him I though he was going to be a weak Hans Solo rip off, but he actually has his own character identity and has something to contribute to the plot, the only downside to him is he is rather absent throughout most of the middle act. The only major old guard cast member that plays a large role in the film is Hans Solo who is there for most of the entirety of the film and he is still characterised perfectly and he gets some of the best moments of the film, again without giving too much away because this was one of those films where the trailer was perfect in how much it showed you, leaving more for you to discover as it went along. The villains are excellent in this film, they don’t feel as powerful as The Empire, but they do feel threatening enough and I think that is down to the excellent designs and casting choices. We’ve got the new dark side Jedi, Kylo Ren who has one of the best bad ass designs and an excellent back story, which unfortunately is kind of slightly undone when he takes off the mask, anyone who has seen the film will understand what I mean, though I do think it shows the fact that unlike Darth Vadar, he is completely human, which he wasn’t. Basically Kylo Ren is a Darth Vadar fan boy for reasons that are touched upon in the film but I think will become more apparent in episodes 8 and 9. You also have the new villain Supreme Leader Snoke, who is obviously taking the place of The Emperor who is brilliantly played by Andy Serkis in another excellent motion capture role for him and taking Peter Cushing’s place is Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux. As it turns out Domhnall Gleeson can play a villain, yes, who would have thought that, and a very good one at that!. Really the joy from this film comes from nods to previous Star War films and it’s main cast,, mainly Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron. You love following their journey and the chemistry between them is excellent and the plot feels like it escalates and keeps your attention throughout the film, it’s one hell of an engaging plot. It only has a couple of twists and turns, but they are at least decently well done and feel like good pay offs, even if a couple of them are slightly predictable towards the end.

It’s not entirely perfect, however. The plot does feel like it’s recycling a lot from A New Hope which is done at least decently well, but it’s amazing how much you can compare the 2 films, to such an extent, that at times it almost feels like a complete re-make of A New Hope. The climax also feels like it has been lifted wholesale from A New Hope. This isn’t a major negative however, because Director J J Abrams who co-wrote the film with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have managed to make this feel fresh and more like a homage to the original films and that’s one of the reasons I really loved it. It’s basically Star Wars which took influence from so many other works of fiction is now almost taking influence from itself and admitting its own great fiction and at the same time it also suggests that this is just to get fans on board and to take this new trilogy simply and easily. The problem with the prequels was they tried to do too complicated a plot too quickly and it became exhausting and not fun. This film is very, very fun to watch and that’s down to its very good action and its decent humour and its great storyline. The other factor in my criticisms of the plot is the fact that A New Hope and The Phantom Menace both left room open to sequels but they felt more like they were self contained stories to get the ball rolling on the trilogies. This one doesn’t feel as self contained. The ending feels very much like a set up for episode 8, but it’s a very good set up and unlike many other films this year that felt like they were trying to set up a sequel, this film gets its own story done and dusted. I will also say that I think the film doesn’t do enough world building and the context of everything that’s going on is slightly minimalistic but I think that’s slightly necessary to get out its own story rather than being bogged down with boring dialogue like The Phantom Menace

That’s how much I liked this film, even the most major negatives I can turn into a positive. There are a couple of things that I had a slight problem with, but in order to go into that I would have to go into spoiler territory and I am not going to do that here, but let’s just say, I am not just going all ‘fan boy’ on this and trying to not look for faults, that’s how we ended up liking The Phantom Menace when it first come out, and all of us that liked it when it first came out are feeling really stupid right now! I’m certain people will pick plot holes out of this as time goes on, especially after episodes 8 and 9 come out (which by the way I can’t wait for), but I think for now, this is probably up there with A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. While the film may start out as suggesting that it’s both Rey and Finn’s story, by the end Rey is pretty much the main character and I am really looking forward to see where her journey is going to take her in the upcoming films because she is an excellent lead in these. She is well able to take care of herself but her past means that she is not entirely self assured of herself and has a weakness and things to learn. It’s just one really, really engaging plot and I am really looking forward to the sequels which will be coming out in the next couple of years. My only nit pick with the plot would be that I do think Finn’s turn from random stormtrooper to rebel, it could have had a bit more time to explain his change, but it may have taken up time from something else in the plot that I really enjoyed which could have meant it would have possibly have been more of a negative so I could have been saying the opposite, but you never know, hindsight is always 20/20.

Acting wise, what can you say! This is an excellent cast, I loved Harrison Ford coming back as Hans Solo who feels like he never left the character in the first place. Carrie Fisher may not be completely given room to play her as much as I would have liked, but when she is given room she does a decent job and thank goodness she dropped her faux British accent and stuck to her normal accent!! Mark Hamill does a decent job back in his role even though he isn’t in the film that much and I did enjoy Anthony Daniels coming back to play C-3P0 and I would say Peter Mayhew is good as Chewbacca. As for the new cast, well they somehow manage to steal the show. They are all excellent in their roles. I really like Adam Driver as Kylo Ren who I think really stands up there with the really good villains of the Star Wars world. Oscar Isaac really gives one of the best roles of his career and 2015 has been absolutely fantastic for him between this, A Most Violent Year and his excellent role in Ex Machina. I did enjoy the other villain actors especially Andy Serkis and Domhnall Gleeson who both bring excellent performances to their roles, but the stand out performance for me is Daisy Ridley who I was very surprised to find out was described as ‘very wooden’ by a couple of reviewers that I have seen which is weird because I actually think that she delivers an excellent performance in this film with a real gannet of emotions. I could go into the cast in much more detail although most other roles are really cameos. I liked Simon Pegg in his small role even though he is buried under tons of make-up. Max Von Sydow is really only in it for a while, so he is basically a glorified cameo. It’s great seeing Tim Rose back as Admiral Ackbar, you know the guy we only remember for saying ‘it’s a trap’. But I think it really speaks for itself, the cast is almost really great universally.

Now one of the most surprising things about this film is there was excellent use of practical effects in this film. Sure the film is not completely devoid of CGI, but it knows when to use it and how to use it and it does it to decent effect. The space battles are excellent and gripping. I love most of the climax which had some excellent scenes and the gun fights are also brilliant. There are some good light sabre duels as well, even though I don’t think that J J Abrams has quite directed them as well as I would have liked, I am just saying I was expecting these to be slightly better than they were, however, that doesn’t change the fact that they were as good and intense as a light sabre fight is supposed to be and the choreography is at least done well. This is definitely one of those films that feels like one of those films that puts a lot of its effort into its action set pieces and it really pays off and all of them will be a treat fror Star Wars fan boys and girls. I saw the film in 3D and take my advice; there really is no reason to see it in that format. The 3D is barely noticeable throughout most of the film except for a couple of select scenes and most of the time it’s when the camera is very static like establishing shots and it doesn’t help the fact that a lot of the action is in semi-lit environments which doesn’t suit 3D well because of the darkening effect the glasses have. Only see the 3D if it’s the only performance that hasn’t sold out, you can do fine with this film in 2D. The make-up department also does an excellent job in creating the Star Wars environment and I love the fact that they didn’t try to do a weird blend of the prequels and the original trilogies technology. The technology in this feels and looks like it’s from the original trilogy but with just a slight update, which is definitely to the films benefit, it makes us feel even more like this is connected to the original trilogy more than the prequels, but it also again feels fresh and new and it’s really a definite plus to the arts department.

What can you say about John William’s score, his music is absolutely fantastic and it’s the reason why most of us love the Star Wars music and will want to hear any symphony orchestra play it and once again these themes are done well and they are fantastic. Anyone who loves music in films loves the Star Wars music and this one will probably make them fall in love with it all over again.

I loved Star Wars The Force Awakens. The kindest thing George Lucas could have done was stay well away from the franchise and let other people take over his creation and it’s very much to the films benefit. It’s great, fresh new and sets up the future trilogy brilliantly. I loved the action scenes, the acting was great with the cast delivering excellent performances. The plot is unbelievably engaging and a treat to Star Wars fans and I loved the new leads Rey and Finn and the film pretty much belongs to them. If there’s one thing I can say, however, it’s that it’s not for newcomers. You really should at last see the original trilogy prior to seeing this film if nothing else because I think anything less than that you will probably find yourself alienated from the story.

Several films in 2015 were hyped to hell and they were given so much hype that they couldn’t live up to the lofty expectations. Star Wars The Force Awakens is the rare film this year that lived up to it’s expectations, although I’m not sure it exceeded expectations, but it’s a very good film and it really feel like Star Wars is completely revitalised. This is a complete must for Sci Fi fans.

So what were your thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Did you agree with me and love it or have a different opinion. I welcome all comments and can’t wait to hear them. My question for this week is:

“What is your favourite Star Wars Moment?”

If you want to submit your own reviews or content please visit our guest content section labelled ‘how to submit’ and you can have your own reviews, animations poetry or whatever you like on our site, we would even like to see some short stories on there.

Well that’s all the 2015 reviews now. Come back on 8 January 2016 when I will be publishing my Top Ten Best and Top Ten Worst Films of 2015 and I will be announcing my first review for 2016.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it,


Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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