We can’t let the dark side win, so this review is completely spoiler free.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a complete fan-service that combines the exciting storytelling and use of practical effects from the original trilogy with the crisp, vibrant color palette and clean computer graphics of the prequels. From a completely objective perspective, The Force Awakens was an average film. It contained enough action, intrigue and humor to keep the audience engaged and fairly content throughout. Unfortunately, as an undying fan of the franchise and mythology, it is impossible to be completely objective with this film, and JJ Abrams knows that full well. Abrams is no novice to the science fiction/adventure genre and he has a very specific visual and tonal style that he injects to every project he directs or writes. His style is a strength for a franchise in desperate need of some cohesion, but a detriment for everyone familiar with his predictable methods.
Even as a fan, I can separate the weaker moments of the film, but fully appreciate Abrams’ understanding of the franchise and what works within it. This time around, he focused on what he usually focuses on, and that is the action sequences and humor. Because of this, some plot lines and characters felt very one-dimensional and unexplored. Like space as a whole, we only know most things based on their shadows and other vaguities mentioned, and The Force Awakens deliberately constructs the film this way. Star Wars has always relied on the unexplained and intentional partial allusions to set up reveals in every one of its films, and this one fits the mold.
Every main character’s storyline, and even a few of the secondary ones, is never fully revealed. We go several decades into the future, but know very little about what happened in between the last film and this one. It is obviously meant to build mystery and intrigue as they plan to reveal this more in the future films, but for now many of the character’s action and motivations don’t quite make sense yet. This can be frustrating for non-fans, but is an added pleasure to fans whose inevitable second pastime will be establishing plot theories based on the bread crumbs of this film.
The newcomers display the same youthful enthusiasm our now veteran cast overwhelmed us with in the original trilogy. Luckily, most of our favorite characters haven’t changed a bit, in both energy or attitude. What you do notice is the inevitable, implicit passing of the baton to the younger characters who mostly fit the mold of our previous heroes. The great outcome of this rebooting continuation is that it has received the much needed upgrades that the prequels failed to deliver. Not just in the story, but also the in the diversity of the cast and the universe. Not that there was anything wrong with the character types established by George Lucas and brought to life by legendary actors like Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. New life needed to be breathed into this story, and with how heavily character driven the franchise is, the characters where the way to do it. In that respect, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac Lupita Nyong’o and Adam Driver completely succeeded, archetypes and all.
There are many great moments that are meant to be treats for the fans that have waited decades for this film. It is a great pleasure to see the new characters (especially Ridley and Boyega) imitate our own reactions to meeting the iconic characters, adding to the already fulfilling fandom experience. This film was made by an obvious fan for die-hard fans, and in that respect it was a monumental success, much like his rebooting of the Star Trek franchise. This time around, space is no longer the final frontier, but the beginning of a completely new adventure already proving to live up to expectations. The Force is strong with this one.
RATING: ★★★★★★★★★ (9/10 stars)