Spoiler-free 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' review: It's here, and it's not a trap
It is here. This is now. This is Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The screen is dark. You feel a flurry of emotions. So much has been invested in this movie, so much expectation, and hope. A hope that it will be the Star Wars you want and one that you deserve. Now imagine these expectations coming from millions across the world. Each one harbouring their own notions for these two words.
In a heartbeat the words appear on the screen: Star Wars.
A shiver runs down your spine, a grin takes over your face, and perhaps a tear in your eye.
It is here. This is now. This is Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
For the next two hours and fifteen minutes, JJ Abrams, along with some of the most talented people in show business carry on their shoulders a burden like none other.
The film is set around 30 years after the events of The Return of the Jedi. The Dark Side is at its most powerful since the revolt against it led by Luke Skywalker, who remains at large. He's also still the most important piece of the puzzle in the Dark Side's pursuit of complete domination.
But when there is a Dark Side, there is a Resistance.
Both sides are in a desperate search for Luke, the last Jedi master, whose whereabouts have been unknown for years. To many people, Luke, the Force, the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo (more on him in just a minute) have become part of a great mythology, spread across the galaxies of Star Wars.
One of the major challenges of the movie has been to introduce new characters who will take the franchise forward in sync with the ones who have done it over the past decades, and the movie excels here. By the end of it, you are as invested, or perhaps even more, in the four new major characters than you were with the original ones.
One of them is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), one of the best Resistance pilots entrusted with the task of finding Luke. Cocky, witty, and with a taste for the danger, he is a reminder of Han right off the bat. And he's not repeatedly referred to as one the best pilots for no reason either.
Then there is Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper with an existential crisis, who is running away from the only life he has known, in search of a better world. A major part of the film's narrative is from his point-of-view, giving the audience the perspective of an outsider, unsure of what might unfold in the galaxy far far away. A tiny drop in the sea, trying to swim against the flow.
Rey... Rey... Rey... So much can and will be said and written about Daisy Ridley's character, but since this is a spoiler-free review, we will keep it short here. The protagonist, the driving force, the one who could kick your ass in a fight is the lead female character of one's dreams, and the sort cinema needs. One's mind is quick to make comparisons with other lead female characters in the recent past like Emily Blunt's in Edge of Tomorrow. But Rey's character brings a strong sense of innocence and a touch of vulnerability at times, which makes her character far more effective and relatable. A lone figure, unsure of her past — her origins are a complete mystery, heading into the unknown, taking on the Dark Side.
And finally Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The Darth Vader of The Force Awakens — the one in black, flaunting a mask and a cape — and carrying that red lightsaber. This man will steal your heart. If you like him with his mask on, wait till he takes it off. Driver does such good job portraying the character that the Dark Side looks more lucrative than ever. A portrait of calm and madness, the character carries a certain depth and style gravely lacking in any of the sci-fi or superhero movie villains in recent memory.
And if Poe reminds one of Han, just wait till the real Han (Harrison Ford) appears on screen.Thirty-eight years after the character made his debut on screen, he still encompasses everything that makes Star Wars Star Wars.
But these are not the only characters who make The Force Awakens special. There is BB-8, the R2D2 of this film (but more of a Wall-E in spirit), who plays a central part in the unfolding events. There is Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the political leader of the First Order (the Dark Side has a new name) and Ren's master. There is Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), a pirate (yes, a pirate) and our hairy old friend Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
But for all the numerous merits, the movie does carry flaws. One of the most striking ones is the predictability of many of its sequences and characters. There are numerous occasions when a sequence starts to unfold and you know what is about to happen. As the movie progresses, this escalates to such a degree that one of the most gut-wrenching (supposedly) moments of the film doesn't even make you blink. It's the same with many of the characters and the choices they make. Also, at times, the urge to play on the old characters and devices comes in the way of the fresh narrative and the developing arc.
Many of the landscapes in the film look nothing more than big production sets, although practical effects throughout redeem much of these shortcomings. Also, the look of the guns more than reflects Disney's ownership of the franchise, having bought over LucasArts in 2012.
But then once again, the merits outweigh the flaws. The film features one of the most intense lightsabre battles we have seen in the franchise, the humour is well executed throughout, the characters have depth and an engaging background, and for once, the stormtroopers are considerably effective.
But most importantly, the movie remains true to the core value of what this franchise is all about — a sense of wonder. Remember the feeling you got while watching The New Hope when Luke stares off at the two suns setting over the horizon? The overwhelming feeling of loneliness, insignificance and a desire to break free, to explore and have an adventure.
This movie retains it.
So you may well ask, was it worth it? Was it really worth it to revive a franchise that inspired millions when its originality came out but shattered it all with prequels?
The answer is in the building. Much will depend on where the new story arc proceeds, how the characters develop over time, and much more.
But as of now, and as far as The Force Awakens is concerned, the wait was worthwhile and your anxieties will be rewarded.
Go watch the movie. An adventure awaits in a galaxy far far away.
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