Billy's Film Reviews.

A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – 2015

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster


★ ½

Release: 2015

Directed By: J.J. Abrams

Produced By: Kathleen Kennedy

Written By: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt

Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill

Running Time: 135 Minutes


Fresh Faces Bring New Hope To Classic Property. But Does It Impress?


The time has come. The immeasurably anticipated sequel to the global phenomenon has hit, bringing with it a plethora of obliterated box-office records and an endless run of speculative online content from diehard fans the world over.
Keep in mind, it has been thirty-three years since fans were last treated to a “good” Star Wars picture.
So, the question on everybody’s lips of course is, what did Episode VII have in store? And how did it fare?

The Force Awakens is once again set a long time ago, (however thirty years closer to the present day) and revolves around the now-established First Order lead by the callous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) under the watchful eye of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).  The re-imagined Empire are back, and in greater numbers.
A series of connected events leaves former Storm Trooper, Fin (John Boyega) and lonesome scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley) meeting and thus evading the enormous threat of Ren’s army, ultimately leading them into the company of one Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Thrown into the mix is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an X-wing pilot caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. From there, the adventure begins once again! 

960With three central characters having the names Fin, Rey and Poe, The Force Awakens began to sound less like a Star Wars property and something more suited for the world of the Telletubbies.
Nevertheless, this is very much a character driven piece that caters for the diehards whilst simultaneously ushering in a new generation of younglings, or at least it was intended to…

Episode VII is both a satisfying continuation of the iconic saga but a radical departure of what we knew and loved. It has both its commendable and disappointing qualities and is anything but the perfect film we were hoping for. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the man helming proceedings is a fan who has a longstanding love for the property.
Director J.J. Abrams undertook what we all dream of doing but what very few could when dreams became reality. The end result exhibits a dedication, a respect and a celebration of everything we loved about the original trilogy, yet it just doesn’t feel the same. It most definitely could have, but there are certain qualities, certain decisions and certain directions that appear misguided, unfulfilled and disenchanting.

Nostalgia pulsates through the undercurrent of the picture, primarily through Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher appearing side by side once again. Things have changed in the last thirty years, and it is more than clear through the exchanges between the two. Subtle nods to the Han and Leia of old are established, yet the sense of trepidation and unease dominates their conversations, adding an unfamiliar emotional element to the pair, or at least Han.

star-wars-the-force-awakens-falconWhere The Force Awakens tries to harken back to the glory days of yesteryear, handing over the baton is the primary focus of this chapter. Fin and Rey learn about the past whilst discovering more about themselves along the way. Their respective arks are intriguing to watch unfold and compare against multiple fan-theories that have taken the internet by storm, yet the most interesting figure on-screen is without a doubt Driver’s Kylo Ren.
His presence is felt like an ominous pulse throughout the picture, and the performance of Driver is a true highlighte. A mix of both what we’ve seen before and a fresh take on something bold and ambitious, Ren is a twisted, convoluted individual with a fascinating story to tell. 

For all of its redeeming highs, The Force Awakens sadly has plenty of upsetting lows. The trailers promised so much, and it is understandable that Abrams had to cover three decades of events into the first act of the film, all the while introducing an entirely new storyline in to the universe of Star Wars; it’s not something you can simply throw together at the eleventh hour like a university essay. Crucial plot points were overlooked, whilst others were shoehorned in at best.
The film appeared both bloated and spread thin which ultimately rendered it, well, neither. There is a pacing to the film that gives it a sense of urgency. The editing creates an atmosphere without breathing room that makes some scenes highly engaging. The only problem is, even the quick-fire editing doesn’t allow for a well-rounded story.  The opening act is excellently written; sharply establishing the central story without wasting time at council meetings or romantic resorts.

star-wars-force-awakens-han-solo-chewbaccaThe way the story snowballs and branches off into associating narratives shows off Lawrence Kasdan’s influence perfectly, it’s just how the story progresses afterwards that doesn’t work as well as it should have. Characters are severely under-developed, introductions are unsatisfactory and even some of the dialogue-heavy scenes appear slightly boring. There are certainly moments of laugh-out-loud humour, but those are regrettably few and far between.

To have Star Wars back on the big screen is something truly special. The hype surrounding the film has drawn to a close and the time has come to finally see what has been in the works since 2012.
Although a vast improvement from a what came over the turn of the century, Episode VII – The Force Awakens could have and should have been something much better. This property means something to billions of people across the globe, and of course the pressure was always going to be unparalleled.
What J.J. Abrams has achieved is something commendable, however the more one ponders over the story at hand, the more inconsistent it reveals itself to be.

Most importantly, this is very much a return to the world of Star Wars. That alone is something we must remember and appreciate. 

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