The Force Awakens – A full review

An in-depth review of the biggest movie of the year.

There are moments that define history. Nelson Mandela’s release from prison and Neil Armstrong taking man’s first step on the moon immediately come to mind.

Just so, there are moments that define the history of cinema. None more so than Darth Vader telling Luke Skywalker that he is his father in The Empire Strikes Back.

[Insert Darth Vader voice] “No, I am your father.”

That one spine-chilling line was such a defining moment in movie history.

Quite something to live up to.

That is why the Star Wars prequels (Episodes I-III) got so much flak. The story had already happened, everybody knew what was coming. There was no defining moment. Not to mention the robotic acting, boring overarching plot (trade disputes), and the double-dipping in the CGI sauce (Episode III was shot entirely on a green screen and all the locations were created digitally).

All of this amounted to a near-universal complaint: “The prequels don’t feel like Star Wars movies.”

And that is what Star Wars is to many – a feeling.

The feeling you get when you see TIE fighters and X-Wings shooting at each other in dramatic dogfights. The feeling you get when you hear John Williams’ iconic Star Wars theme music. The feeling you get when you see Han Solo vie for Princess Leia’s affection. The feeling in that moment when Leia finally says “I love you” and Han’s coolly replies “I know”. That feeling you get when Darth Vader says: “No, I am your father.”

This feeling is what JJ Abrams, director of the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, needed to achieve.

“There has been and awakening. Have you felt it? The Dark side, and the Light.” These words were first heard in the first teaser trailer. The voice of Supreme Leader Snoke, a mysterious new villain played by Andy Serkis, so menacing that you can’t tell whether that awakening is going to be good or bad.

And has Star Wars awoken? Have we felt it?

Yes. A million times over, yes!

What Abrams and Kasdan have managed to achieve with this movie is nothing short of miraculous.

Not only have they managed to create interesting, relatable and genuinely funny characters, they have breathed new life into the old ones, while staying true to what the first films gave us – a feeling.

The film follows newcomers Rey (Daisy Ridley) a scrap salvager living on the planet Jakku, Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper escaping from the sinister First Order and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), an X-Wing pilot on a secret mission as their stories intertwine in the battle against the First Order and the Dark side of The Force.

Along the way they meet Leia (now General Leia), played by Carrie Fisher, an old man and his hairy companion (okay, it’s Han and Chewie), and the nefarious new villain shrouded in secrecy (Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver).

But this film’s crowning feat is not that is achieves what it set out to do, it is its empowerment of the female lead.

Rey is no damsel in distress. She is a tough-as-nails loner, longing for her family. She can hold her own in a fight, but is emotionally vulnerable.

As with Han, Luke and Leia, she is relatable. A real character.

Small snippets of her past are revealed in flashbacks, but never truly expanded on. Nonetheless, the success of her story is that cinemagoers are left wanting more. They want to know who she is, and more importantly, where she’s going.

The empowerment of a strong female lead is a theme more and more prevalent in modern films, a prime example of this being Charlize Theron’s Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road.

On top of its all-round success, this might just be what The Force Awakens will be remembered for.

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