By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a pretty big one. Since the seventh episode was announced way back when, Sci-Fi fans have been getting excited – well now the wait is over.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens arrives on our screens a decade after the last blockbuster in the franchise. I went to see the new addition as a cinema lover rather than a Star Wars fanatic, so I am reviewing this objectively.
However, all things considered, I defy anyone not to get the fist-clenchingly excited when the famous John Williams music begins.
So, Star Wars is back with a new director, new cast and a new story – but is it back to the good old days too?
Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Right, let’s just get the awkwardness out the way. The last three films (Episodes 1, 2 and 3) were atrocious and we will not speak of them again. So with that said, The Force Awakens is quite clearly the best Star Wars film for the last 30 years.
After the overloaded green-screen prequels, Episode VII gets back on track and returns fans to the world they know and love. Once you’re listening to Williams' famous score whilst watching an X-wing battle a TIE Fighter – you know exactly what you bought your ticket for. Even the vast landscapes of impressive locations get your lightsabers twitching. You just know when it’s a Star Wars film, and ‘TFA’ captures it perfectly.
The special effects and J. J. Abrams’ visionary direction were always going to be the highlight. Abrams transformed Star Trek and he will do it again with Trek’s rival. The major concern I have is the casting. It’s a massive mixed bag for me personally. Its early days in the new trilogy so you could say I am judging them prematurely - though I can only review what’s in front of me. The golden oldies including Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Carrie Fischer (General Leia) all return with nostalgic but great performances. However, I want to focus more on the three central protagonists.
Fighting on the side of the Resistance against the First Order is fresh talent Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Finn). I find each of their stories interesting but I wasn’t blown away by one of the two's performances. Boyega, from Attack The Block fame, is a scene stealer throughout the whole film. He is amusing, connectable and the unsung hero – the audience back him from the very start. Daisy Ridley is the issue I think. I find her quite wooden at times, especially the first few scenes, but she does loosen up as this film progresses. It feels like she is reading an autocue the whole time and she isn’t bubbling with chemistry alongside her co-stars either. I think going forward, John and Daisy will be a great leading pair as it is quite fun to watch their personalities clash. They both want the same thing but their temperaments are different – it will be great to see their relationship develop.
Adam Driver is the great appointment. His role in the franchise is different to previous villains due to one component – emotion. He plays Kylo Ren who runs The New Order with guidance from Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke. Kylo Ren is very reminiscent of another black, all-in-one suited antihero from times gone by but with that added emotion; it gives a whole new dimension to the character. The emotional aspect of Kylo Ren creates an illusion that he might not be completely on the dark side; when in reality he is perhaps even darker than you first thought. Driver is compelling and brings that extra fear into every scene he’s in. Ren is emotionally-damaged and unstable which makes the audience oblivious to what can happen next. Adam is a great addition to the Star Wars family.
The seventh episode might not be the best outing in the franchise but certainly an entertaining one. It has all the thrills Star Wars fans would hope for but it just lacks that daring edge that clearly Abrams wasn’t risking to do in his first outing. Maybe he will go all out in the next instalment. If you overlook the minor plot issues and give the cast the benefit of the doubt, you have a potentially awesome trilogy looming. There’s one definite positive I will say about ‘TFA’, this film truly understands the power of action and cinema. The visuals and battle pieces are a joy and clearly adored by all - making over half a billion in just five days is certainly the proof in the pudding.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4 Stars
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now released worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 12A