Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12A)

First things first, The Force Awakens is an entertaining film and will no doubt be one of the better ones you see this year.

It’s got a bit of everything thrown in there; action, comedy, drama and tragedy. For its duration, it will keep you pretty much on the edge of your seat. The many trailers for the film have done a very good job at trying to avoid spoiling any plot points so I will try to do the same here.

The main stars of the film, as the build-up has suggested, are a mix of some old favourites with some new blood thrown in for good measure. Daisy Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s Finn are likeable new leads. Both react with childlike glee and trepidation to the snowballing situation they fall into.

Han Solo and Chewbacca are the two stalwarts of the series with the most screen time. Han, ever the scoundrel, is still relying on his roguish charm to get out of sticky situations; and Chewbacca as always is close by his side, if maybe a touch more growly in his advanced years! The chemistry is fantastic between these four characters whenever they share the screen and they really do steal the show.

I also want to praise the performance of Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. Not a lot has been revealed about the CG Maz Kanata other than a couple of photos but she is definitely one of my favourite characters in The Force Awakens, displaying a nice mix of wisdom and danger.

The menacing First Order has been billed as the villains in the run up to release, and without doubt the two stand-out characters on the dark side are Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke. Ren, played by Adam Driver, is one of the more interesting star wars villains we’ve seen. On the outside he’s a menacing sight, clad in black with a mask reminiscent of Darth Vader’s. However, it is quickly revealed that he is a much more complicated individual still in the midst of inner turmoil. Andy Sirkis’ CG captured performance for Snoke is a much more traditionally evil one but no less interesting than that of his subordinate.

While I will avoid outlining any specific plot details I would like to mention director J.J.Abrams’ slavish devotion to trying to recreate the magic of the original trilogy. His usual penchant for lens flare is welcomingly absent and he’s gone out of his way to rely on as many practical effects as possible. The balance between the CG elements and the practical effects is something the prequel trilogy failed to do and a mistake that was skilfully avoided here. The Force Awakens is definitely the best star wars has ever looked.

As I said at the beginning of my review The Force Awakens is a good film but before I finish I am going to try and explain why it’s not a great film. This is quite hard to do without spoilers so apologies if my points I do mention seem a little nit-picky.

The first issue actually stems from one of the films great strengths. J.J. Abrams’ in his quest to recreate the magic of the original Star Wars has ended up producing a film that feels a lot like a clone of the original. There are plenty of plot details that are original here but you get the overwhelming feeling of de ja vu and that is because the overall arc of the film mirrors what we have seen before.

My second issue is related to the development, or specifically lack of development, of several characters. Rey is the main victim here when you consider she is one of the big stars of the film but it extends to the supporting cast too, with Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma a complete non-event. Poe Dameron played by Oscar Isaac) is another example of this inconsistent character development. His initial introduction is charismatic and captivating but by the end of the film he seems to have regressed into a generic nice guy role.

So should you see The Force Awakens? The simple answer is yes! You’d have to be pretty dead inside to not enjoy watching the latest chapter in the world’s most famous space opera. My only word of warning goes out to the truly hard core Star Wars fans out there, who may, like me, find this film spectacular but underwhelming at the same time.

By Mark Jankowski

★★★★☆

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