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MOVIE REVIEW: FTN reviews (spoiler-free) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

December 17th, 2015 by Marc 1 Comment

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Directed by: JJ Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver
Running time: 2hrs 15mins

It’s still hard to believe that, ten years after Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the  Sith, I am sitting here writing a review of a brand new Star Wars movie, Episode VII in the franchise. Big, shiny and bold. And yet, here we are.

And what a return to form it is.

JJ Abrams has, despite many fears, delivered a Star Wars movie that isn’t Empire Strikes Back good (what is?) but is certainly on par with Return of the Jedi and maybe A New Hope.

Opening with a very straight-forward scroll, the movie sets everything up right from the get go, so you are left in no uncertain terms as to what is happening and where we are in the tale and, while this is very definitely a sequel to Return of the Jedi, it’s a good place for newbies to jump on too because it manages to introduce us to the old and new with an effortless ease.

I’m not going to go into the plot too much because to do so would be akin to putting spoilers in, but I will say that the movie does very much borrow from what has gone before – sometimes almost frame for frame; but it’s ok because Abrams has given us a new generation of Star Wars characters in Rey (Ridley), Finn (Boyega) and Poe (Isaac) who are a lot of fun and, for the most, part well written and interesting to the point that we want to go on this journey with them. Although it must be said that Isaac does suffer from an underwritten part – fun and likeable certainly, but could really do with fleshing out, while Boyega and Ridley are fantastic on screen and have serious potential to be ‘the next big thing’ as their performances are so strong in this movie.

And the pacing is amazing; Abrams opens with a very traditional shot, although done with a twist, and hits the ground running at a pace and rarely does he stop for breath, while masterfully weaving in a story and characters that are involving and layered. There’s a lot going on in this movie, while at its core, like Lucas’ 1977 first movie, it’s a simple tale just well told.

So, while the movie often acts as a Star Wars greatest hits, it’s fresh and new enough that it will please the old and capture a new audience alike. I remember discussing what I expected from this new movie with friends and someone said they expected the Lucas mantra of ‘faster, more intense’ and that’s what we get here to a degree… familiar territory given a new, exciting paint job.

And it works really well.

And, as an added bonus, we get the original cast thrown into the mix too… the gang’s all here, but this does feel like a passing of the torch/soft reboot in many ways. And I suppose that is the way of the world; none of the characters are sold short and each has a role to play that feels in keeping with the characters we know and love, but Abrams is clearly letting us know that Star Wars is, moving forward, now about Rey, Finn and Poe. And, after seeing this movie, I love that idea as all three are wonderful on screen.

Wonderful too is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren;  a complex, sinister villain, he embodies much of Darth Vader and, strangely, couldn’t be further from him. His story is layered and is something I, for one, can’t wait to see explored at a later stage. And Driver does fantastic work here, both in and out of the mask, he is a dark, scary and very human character and it’s already clear that his story is going to be a big part of the new trilogy.

And as for the universe itself, Abrams has created a universe that feels bigger than before – as odd as that may sound – maybe because the prequels gave us characters we already knew, albeit with different faces, while here we, for the most part, visit uncharted territory and characters. It’s the same old Star Wars we love while at the same time, bold and new.

Is there any issues? Well, yes, of course. The character of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is really lost in the proceedings and needs developed more. Also, Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) brings little to the table and leaves us longing for an Peter Cushing-esque villain. Poe Dameron, as said earlier, really deserved more character.

But, in the grand scheme of things, these are minor gripes. Because this is Star Wars it gets away with things many movies won’t – we’re really left feeling there are threads left hanging and things that aren’t explored enough, but it’s fine because there is the overwhelming feeling that this is only a part of the story, an introduction, and there’s much more to be explored at a future date, more Empire than a New Hope, this movie knows it has future instalments coming to delve into the loose ends.

I read a review earlier where the writer stated that there’s a lot of coincidence in the plot. And there is. But isn’t that the way of the Force? Wouldn’t Obi-Wan Kenobi tell that reviewer that he doesn’t believe in coincidence and it’s all the will of the Force? You’re damn right he would.

So overall, The Force Awakens delivers on pretty much every front and brings Star Wars back to the big screen in a way that – as a prequels apologist – many may not have realised it was missing. It’s fast paced, scary, funny, exciting, full of action (not that a Jedi craves any of these things) and most importantly of all, it’s absolutely 100% Star Wars.

Thank you, JJ.

I realise that I am on a ‘new Star Wars’ euphoric high right now and, with future viewings this might drop a point but right now, at almost 5am after the midnight screening, this Star Wars fan has to give the movie…

5 out of 5 Nerds

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Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….

  • Phil Wilce

    I have to disagree; whilst there were a number of brilliant moments and some superb nostalgia points throughout the movie, there were also too many plot elements that seemed out of place or non-sensical compared to the other movies.

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