[Note: I’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Force Awakens twice already, so I’m here to fill you in on all you need to know to have peace of mind when you book your tickets, without a single plot spoiler. This is a film that is best served fresh first time, so even if you get tempted, don’t read or believe any spoilers that may crop up – I guarantee it’ll be worth it.]
Chances are if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you’re currently avoiding any and all Star Wars talk like the plague in fear of the dreaded plot spoilers. Chances are you’re also concerned, like many others, as to whether this new entry in the series would be the shining star in a galaxy far, far away we need it to be. It’s safe to say this should not be a concern – the production team has crafted a Star Wars entry that, whilst it has its flaws like any other film, is certainly among the best in the series.
Whilst Episode VII takes place several years after Return of the Jedi, it hasn’t gotten lost in the vast reaches of the Star Wars universe. Right from the opening crawl and then continued through early dialogue, the writing does everything possible to catch you up on the story since RotJ. This does, however, come at the price of some moderately weak early lines of dialogue that are very clearly out of flow with the rest of the film, worded to fill viewers in on specific details. With such a jump through the Star Wars timeline, it’s an inevitable flaw to be expected and certainly not one to ruin the experience.
On a more positive note, The Force Awakens does an exceptional job of making its plot accessible to new audiences, not just through dialogue but overall plot setup. Not a lot of knowledge about the prior trilogies is needed, if any, to understand the plot of TFA thanks to superb introduction and sustained use of all-new characters. Effectively, the film can be contained in its own little plot “bubble”, with virtually all ties to earlier films explained in-house and the rest of the content brand new – characters, concepts, entities, all of it perfectly understandable to a new viewer.
Speaking of characters, their implementation within the story is possibly one of the greatest positives of the film. I had two main reservations when going in to seeing The Force Awakens – that the returning characters would be overused, and that the new main characters wouldn’t fit neatly into place amongst legends like Han and Leia. I’m glad to say they were both completely unnecessary concerns, with our returning favourites having both a worthwhile and well-measured presence whilst the new characters slot in so smoothly they almost make the original trilogy look weak. In fact, not only do they slot in well, they actually create some of the most memorable (and hilarious) moments in the entire saga. An important note about the comic moments present throughout the film – these are not of the Jar Jar Binks form, but rather a more genuine set of laughs placed well to catch the viewer off-guard.
The plot flows from strength to strength, always keeping the viewer gripped (and in my case, grinning throughout) and engaged – something not so easily done in a new story arc. I have to admit, certain events within the film felt like they were over-and-done with all too quickly, but the beauty of its momentum was that I was never given much more than a moment to recognise the issue before something more exciting came along.
When JJ Abrams committed to using as many practical effects as possible, he wasn’t lying. It’s clear as the film progresses that the community’s many voicings over the use of CGI vs. practical effects has been heard and acted upon, with many of the creatures, objects and effects are both of the practical variety and extremely well detailed. This doesn’t mean, however, that CGI has no place, as there is a good helping of digital effects, but the majority of these have also been carefully crafted to look as genuine as possible and suit the needs of the scene. When I returned for my second viewing I consciously made an effort to spot and potential weak CGI and I’m pleased to say I had a seriously hard time trying to spot anything of concern.
I’d love to write a paragraph here on the phenomenal work of John Williams in creating the musical score for The Force Awakens, but I’d be doing it a disservice. If you’re a Star Wars veteran, you know it already, if you’re new to the universe, there isn’t any amount of words that can fully realise the experience created by merging the on-screen action with Williams’ nostalgic yet fresh musical masterpiece.
Something has to be said for a film that can take an audience through such a rollercoaster of emotions in the space of 140 minutes. Through well-measured doses of wonder, nostalgia, fear, laughter, anger, sadness, solemnity, serenity and more (in no particular order), Star Wars: The Force Awakens begins a new chapter in the history of filmmaking with one of the strongest entries in the saga to date. JJ Abrams and the phenomenally talented team behind this production have not only created a fantastic film, but an homage to all that makes Star Wars great. A seasoned Star Wars fan will be able to spot elements of both the original and prequel trilogies, with a spark of something that is new and fresh which makes the experience that much more enthralling. It is a new step in the journey of characters we have grown to love, through the eyes of new characters we will soon come to love just as much, if not more.
tl;dr – Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the film you are looking for. It’s not perfect, but it’s not far off it. Well done to all involved in crafting this work of art, you have made, and are going to make a lot of fans very happy indeed.