Scott Hastie

Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

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A long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away…Star Wars fans got the sequel that the original trilogy deserved.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, or Star Wars Episode VII has arrived in cinemas in the early hours of this morning to already so much critical acclaim, and after attending Sunderland’s midnight screening, it’s easy to see why.

As a stand-alone film it is one of the most impressive blockbusters of the year, with a larger heart than any contemporary. Looking at it as part of the Star Wars series, already a sub genre of film on its own, there is so much to love here.

Without giving the game away, things have moved on in thirty years. In this time the remnants of the fallen Empire has been taken over by a new group called The First Order. They still use enormous pizza-shaped star ships and have given the Stormtroopers a bit of a revamp, but they are much more ruthless than Vader and co.

The reliance are still fighting them and we’re re-introduced via Oscar Issac’s, Poe Dameron; the greatest pilot in the rebellion. He’s perhaps the first fleshed out X-Wing pilot in Star Wars history which feels new and exciting and there are some fantastic scenes with Issac; especially a panning shot of him blasting around fifteen Tie Fighters out of the sky in one fell swoop. Thirty years on and our beloved Princess (General) Leia leads the resistance.

The heroes know nothing of this great Galactic war though. Finn is a fleeing Stormtrooper shocked by The First Order’s cruelty and scared for his life. John Boyega brings real terror in Finn’s eyes through-out the film but also a new hero who is easy to get behind.

On the desert planet Jakku, perhaps this trilogy’s Tatooine, a young girl scavenges through parts of destroyed great imperial war ships. Her name is Rey (played by the enigmatic Daisy Ridley) and she is our primary hero in this universe. Brave, kind and capable, she is caught up in the war but as the film progresses we see that nothing is ever by chance in the Star Wars universe.

Lastly is our beloved droid of the saga, BB-8, who is a massive comic factor in the film but also has so much heart. The crew have done a sublime job of making us care so much for the little droid so quickly, as BB-8 is the glue which sticks Rey, Finn and Poe together in the opening scenes.

Rey and Finn join Poe as our heroes for the new saga but they have enemies of course. Adam Driver’s, Kylo Ren as an interesting antagonist, with that iconic red saber with a single red blade.

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Image: Bago Games

Where Vader was cold, calculative and stern; Ren is brash. He is younger, untrained and never completely in control. When things go sour for the First Order, he takes it out on a massive control panel with his sabre, as nearby Stormtroopers turn around and walk away, aware of his anger issues. Kylo does have sympathetic qualities through-out which makes it all the more heartbreaking, when a possible redemption arc is thrust out of the window due to his tragic deception.

At the heart of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are stellar performances from characters, scenery and small flickers of odes to Lucas’ original trilogy. From the moment Han Solo and Chewbacca arrive on screen, the whole cinema, myself included, wanted to leap out of our seats in ovation. I had a worry going into the film that they would take a step back to remark on how our new heroes are coping but this is absolutely not the case. Han Solo is at the very heart of the whole film, and rightly so is listed as the top billing of the film. C-3PO and R2D2 do return but in smaller roles which I’m sure we’ll see more of in the next two films. Even the Millenium Falcon arrives in style and sets off beautiful memories in the hearts of Star Wars fans around the globe.

There could be the argument that the film does loosely take things from the original trilogies and revamps them. There’s still a death star with a ridiculous design flaw (seriously how hard is it to find a decent architect in Space?). There’s light-sabers from past films as well as cameos from characters like Admiral Ackbar and Nien Numb. The kind of things which are throw-away enough for the casual fan to not overthink about, but important enough to put a quick smile on the face of the die hards.

There’s a lot of respectful nods to the old saga in The Force Awakens, and that’s very important I believe in how much the film will be loved by all fans of Star Wars.

This is a review so let me just tell you that Disney/JJ Abrams/not Lucas have done a bloody good job and you’re definitly not going to be disappointed at The Force Awakens. It’s kept the heart 0f the original trilogy whilst having the guts to confidently tell its own story and help us easily care for these wonderful new characters.

Many secrets are revealed in The Force Awakens but there is still a lot to come I’m sure of it. If only we could blast off into Hyperspace and arrive in 2017 in time for Episode VIII now.

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