This review is spoiler free. Just to let you know, because I’m aware of how people can get over something like this. So lets talk about the latest Star Wars film, i.e. the most talked about movie of 2015 not called Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron.
I’ll start the review by telling you where I stand with Star Wars: I’m not what you would call a Star Wars fan. I didn’t grow up on it, or have parents who raised me on it, nor do I have an enormous collection of merchandise ranging from plastic light sabres to Jar Jar Binks toilet paper. But this doesn’t stop me from saying that I do think Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back is a cinematic masterpiece, Episode 4 is a fantastic film and Episode 6 is very good (I haven’t seen Episode 3, and both Episodes 1 and 2 did very little for me, so much so that I barely remember anything about them). At the same time, it is a fun franchise in general.
So what’s the most I can say about the story without being an ass (as my tweet indicated)? Well, the main goal of everybody is that they are looking for Luke Skywalker, who is being revered as the last Jedi Knight, and has since become a figure of legend and probable folklore after he decided to go all Leprechaun/Big Foot on everybody. With the fall of the Galactic Empire in Episode 6, came a new group that rose from the ashes, known as The First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his second-in-command Kylo Ren. Princess Leia is now known as General Leia, and is the leader of the resistance. She seeks Luke’s whereabouts for his help in fighting against The First Order (and because she misses her brother). Meanwhile, we’re introduced to 2 new characters, 1 is Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) a scavenger from the desert planet Jakku who is waiting for her family to come home, and Finn (played by John Boyega) a Stormtrooper who decides that he doesn’t want to do this anymore, and tries to run away. Eventually they both get caught up in an interesting series of events involving the search for Luke. I’m sure everyone’s aware that Han Solo and Chewbacca make a return as well. But like I said, spoiler free.
Now to break the film down into its components:
The CGI in this Star Wars is top notch, and easily the best that the series has been since the originals (I’m making reference to how much the effects submerge you into the movie’s world), it all feels and looks very organic, and very authentic looking.
The Art Style in this episode is 1 that sees it staying true to itself without alienating it’s audience. The look and feel of the original trilogy has been very faithfully recreated and effectively brought up to date without any annoying choices or particularly bad designs (and no terrible CGI Special Edition Monsters either).
The acting is excellent, even from the Franchise’s newest additions, which is a rare occurrence to something as big as this. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and the actor who plays Kylo Ren (once again, no spoilers) are much better than Hayden Christensen and (even though I like her in nearly everything else) Natalie Portman when doing Star Wars.
The characters…For once, we’ve been given new characters in the Franchise who are actually very interesting. Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren are brilliantly introduced and well developed to the point that I’m interested in seeing them in the next 2 movies (and some other new characters too). The reintroduction of old characters was really well done too, as they were a focus but not the focus.
The music…oh the music! It’s not only outstanding, but it’s soaked in nostalgia as well. Composed once again by John Williams, and to be fair, who else were they going to get to do it? It just wouldn’t be the same. It’s also guaranteed to make some more Gustav Holst fans (his piece called The Planets is 1 of the main inspirations for Star Wars’ music)
The story in Episode VII flows like water. The franchise has been described as a space opera, and this definitely lives up to that. It has many moments of grey area character development (Kylo Ren has some particularly interesting moments), while also taking a lot of risks and going against numerous cliche choices. At the same time, the writing in general is a lot better. It’s funnier, with a lot more multi-layered dialogue. But there is a downside…and this downside only exists until the next 2 films are released. Rey and Finn are likeable and not boring, but their backstories is also very unclear, to the point that some of their actions don’t make much sense (or at least they don’t make sense yet). There are other scenes that require justifications, but we’ll need to wait and see how or why these choices work out.
The film’s Cinematography is also glorious, Daniel Mindel (Director J.J. Abrams’ go-to cinematographer) shows off his trademarks in this film as much as he did in Star Trek…to say the least, the man knows how to shoot a good-looking Sci-Fi movie.
Would I recommend Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens? Absolutely! If you’re a fan of Star Wars, it’s far from a letdown, in fact, I would say it’s either on par or better than The Empire Strikes Back on numerous levels. At the same time it’s quite clear that we need the next 2 movies to complete this 1. It’s great on it’s own, and fits well with the rest of the franchise (much better than the prequel episodes), but it will need Episodes VIII and IX, 2 movies I now look forward to seeing, as this film left me hungry for more.
Art Style: ****3/4
Story: **** (this may be higher when the other films are released)