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“Chewie, we’re home”, says Han Solo when he boards the Millenium Falcon. And so very many of us are at home when watching Star Wars. It’s great to be back in a galaxy far, far away for another adventure.
In all of human history, there are few things which have captured the minds of people as much as the Star Wars series has. One of the largest franchises to ever exist, its popularity has clearly not dimmed; in fact, it has increased a hundredfold despite the disaster that was the prequel trilogy. The film strongly echoes that which made the original trilogy so special, while introducing new elements, and succeeds for the most part in both.
The Force Awakens takes place decades after Return of the Jedi. From the remnants of the Galactic Empire, a new enemy has risen and they call themselves The First Order. They’re led by a mysterious Force user called Snoke, played by motion capture expert Andy Serkis. Snoke, along with the rest of the Order, has revived the Stormtroopers and they’re all brainwashed, following him without question. To oppose them, and defend the New Republic, there is an organization called The Resistance, formed by a lot of familiar faces.
To the new generation of the galaxy far, far away, the exploits of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia are nothing more than a myth. Even the very existence of these heroes is questioned, as is the existence of The Force. A strong element of the original trilogy was the chance encounters which ultimately led to these legends and this movie takes it forward in a way that suggests that The Force is pulling the strings behind the scenes. It brings together seemingly unrelated characters together, thus introducing us to the new characters of the movie.
The lead is undoubtedly Rey, a scavenger on the planet of Jakku, and she is drawn into a space adventure she couldn’t have imagined. Daisy Ridley is excellent in the new role, and she conveys the character’s traits perfectly. The other new leads to be drawn into the drama of The First Order are Finn, a Stormtrooper, and Poe Dameron, a Resistance pilot played by John Boyega and Oscar Isaac respectively.
I particularly enjoyed how the movie reintroduced the characters of old. They’re not rushed in immediately; we’re first given enough time to familiarize ourselves with the new characters before renewing our acquaintance with the aged versions of previously young characters. Han Solo has the biggest role in the movie from the returning characters, and Harrison Ford is as good, or bad, a smuggler as ever. The roguish charm, the witty one liners, the banter with Chewie and Leia – all of it is as it should be. Leia, who has now been dubbed General instead of Princess, also makes her return and it is clear from the outset that she’s carrying a lot of baggage, though I’m not going to tell you why – spoilers and all that. And Luke Skywalker…boy oh boy, the less I tell you about him the better off you’ll be.
Of course, the movie isn’t without its villains, the forefront of which is Kylo Ren. His appearance is reminiscent of Darth Vader, and there are good reasons why. The character is played well by Adam Driver and he manages to keep the character from being just a redo of Vader. His story arc and its implications is perhaps the most interesting plot of the movie, and maybe even the new trilogy, which is saying a lot.
The special effects are, as you’d expect in 2015, a sight to behold. What’s interesting, though, is that the makers have gone for practical effects where possible and the cameras are placed in a way to include the audience in the experience. There is a lot of blood, traumatic deaths and adult themes that were not present in the original trilogy but slowly made their way into the prequel trilogy, particularly Revenge of the Sith.
While it’s fun to return to the series, catching up with old characters and learning the new, there’s a sense of over–familiarity with the movie. It has taken a lot of cues, plot devices and character sketches from the original trilogy and is quite similar to A New Hope. Hopefully, though, it will take its own direction in the two upcoming films.
The Force Awakens is a spectacular movie, one with a great cast, characters, special effects and the galaxy known and loved by many. Though it does follow previously tread paths a little too much, it is an amazing journey and offers a new hope to the otherwise stagnating sci – fi genre.
My score – 9/10
Note to parents: As mentioned above, there are darker themes than in previous movies, so it would be inappropriate for a child under the age of 12. Also, the movie assumes a strong familiarity with the previous installments, so I would recommend seeing at least the original trilogy before heading for The Force Awakens.