Saturday, December 19, 2015

Quick (ish) Critique: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

To say that Star Wars is an important milestone in cinema is a bit of an understatement. Just like there is a before and after Brando for acting, for film there is a before and after Star Wars. Its pop culture ubiquity and effect on how movies are made is so prominent that you could likely re-enact the Original Trilogy without ever having seen a frame of it.

So with the news that Disney were planning a new trilogy after obtaining the rights from George Lucas, the anticipations for new Star Wars movies for the first time in a decade was pretty damn incalculable. Combine that with the returning of the original cast to the series for the first time in over 30 years, and it’s hard not to have a good feeling about this. Despite the mistakes of the past.

It is good to note, then, that ‘The Force Awakens’ is an admirable and entertaining follow up to such a beloved franchise. Director JJ Abrams knows how to shoot a great looking film, showing off the great effects as well as the more practical throwings that fans will breathe a sigh of relief to see. While the action sequences can be dragged out, it has some intense and fun set pieces, particularly with the return of the lightsabre duels.

The strength of this film is its characters. The story seems to service bringing the new guard into the fold, and handles this brilliantly. Every character has their own nuances, dimension and intrigue. John Boyega gives us a pretty funny and likable ‘everyman’ in Finn, while new to the scene Daisy Ridley absolutely blows everyone away as our unlikely hero, the scavenger Rey. The always impressive Oscar Isaac owns pretty much every scene he’s in as smart-assed and playful Poe Dameron, managing to take a very Han Solo-esque character and making it distinctive.

The villains are given less focus, sans one, so it’s hopeful they get more screentime in future outings. Arguably one of the more polarising characters is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. While he plays a great character, he’s certainly not the threatening force (hah!) that one is expecting and you’ll either love to hate or just hate the guy. He definitely has the most intrigue out of all the cast, and it’ll be great to see him develop as the series goes forward.

The old guard are mostly kept in the background, save for Han Solo and Chewbacca. It’s great to see them in the roles again, and they fit them comfortably, but they don’t exactly pull out their acting chops when compared to the new generation. Harrison Ford in particular falters at certain scenes.

Most of the flaws have to do with story structure and pacing. While the latter brings in a new energy, there are less slow and contemplative moments that could have been used to add character and atmosphere to the proceedings. Also, the movie feels too much like treading the ground of the older films. This isn’t in of itself a bad thing, but it fails to bring anything new outside of a future cast, which easily could have been serviced with an entirely different story.

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is something the fans will adore and general audiences will enjoy. It’s got great action, wonderful characters, a careful blend of practical and computer generated effects, and is a wonderful homecoming for a beloved series. Go out and enjoy feeling like a kid again, and may the Force be with the future.