Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Acting
Directing
Script
Cinematography
Timeless
The Good...
  • Best installment of Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back
  • Great cocktail of old classic and new spicy ingredients
  • Besting action set-pieces, cinematography and sound
The Bad...
  • Ooops, there is nothing here
4.9Overall Score

The two days since the worldwide release of the new chapter in the Star Wars saga seemed like eternity for me – don’t click on a wrong link in Twitter or Reddit; watch what you’re flipping on Flipboard and hopefully don’t be friends with some douche who gives away the entire plot on Facebook (like I am doing now – but at least with a proper warning). Ultimately, the Force was strong with me, I was able to avoid every possible spoiler by keeping myself from clicking on any links and/or being spoiled by others. Now why am I doing such a long and boring preface to the actual review – well because I want to give you chance to stop right here – because it’s all spoilers from here my people. Are you ready ?

Needless to say that this is THE biggest movie release of 2015, ever since Disney’s announcement to make another trilogy, every little movement in the making of the new Star Wars film was commented, reposted, trashed, praised, you-name-it. The fanbase had been let down after the horrible prequels – not only because Jar Jar Binks but also because it was just bad. And now J.J. Abrams was given the unthinkable (and unthankable) task to make us forget the prequels ever existed and open a new magic chapter of the Star Wars saga – all that under the massive internet scrutiny and profit hungry studios.  All signs were point towards another possible failure – but you know what: IT DIDN’T, because this movie is absolutely amazing and probably the best installment of the Star Wars saga since The Empire Strikes Back. And for that J.J.Abrams – I as a big big fan of Star Wars want to express my sincerest gratitude to you. Now what was so good about this movie?

Bet high, win big

star-wars-teaser-2-feature-640x427As mentioned, being responsible for re-launching a legend which already lived through a failed relaunch is a mission which you can only lose. J.J. Abrams however manages to find the exact right balance of nostalgia and homage to the original installment and injects the saga with new characters and an interesting narrative which greatly combines the old crew with a new generation. He finds the right way into our hearts by bringing back the crew we so deeply loved and cared for (almost) fully back on screen. Most importantly – my personal favorite duo Han and Chewbacca is back and they luckily are not just cameos but are absolutely essential to the movie’s plot. Harrison Ford – from the moment he enters the screen – just rocks the character which made him the cinematic icon he is today as if no day has passed (when in fact over 30 years have passed since ROTJ). The moment the door opens and Chewie and Han enter the screen, my heart just lit up. Bringing back the classics is not the only major casting accomplishment of Abrams and crew. They put the burden of a new Star Wars chapter on the shoulders of mostly inexperienced actors. And they could have probably taken the low-risk route with a plot primarily around Han, Luke and Leia (I can only imagine Disney seeing the dough rolling in and begging them to do so). The bold move of trusting the rather unknown Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver to open this new chapter paid off big time. Not only are their stories interesting, they also bring great chemistry to the screen. One could see parallels to 1977, when the unknown Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamil and Harrison Ford won audiences’ hearts across the globe. Unfortunately only one of them was able to turn this accelerator into a successful movie career – which begs the question who of the three mentioned will manage to return history.

New is always better

DRsumAEM-xlargeOne big issue of the prequels was that the characters were not interesting, likable and/or credible. The potential to explore Anakins turn to the Dark Side and or the early days of Yoda was high but just poorly explored – so Abrams must have thought of Barney Stinson and decided: New is always better. So aside from entering into a new chapter with fresh faces, he equips them with a new storyline which has enough original Star Wars backstory to satisfy fanfare but allows to enter new territory in future installments. Granted, the parallels between Rey, Luke and even Anakin are very obvious. But her story and also conflict of longing for a more interesting and eventful life in a galaxy far far away on the one hand and waiting for her family to return back to Jakuu on the other hand – and thus her staying back and even rejecting Han’s offer to become her co-pilot – was just so much more interesting. Whereas Luke was mostly crying about being a bored farmboy and Anakin just acting like a child with a bad haircut, Rey was actually suffering to get enough food on her table while secretly hoping for a better life – day by day. Her character development throughout the movie (from hopeless desert girl to the new hope for the Resistance) was both greatly written and fantastically acted by Daisy Ridley. Speaking of new ways, I also loved the idea of a defecting Stormtrooper who wants to do more than (literally) just the dirty work for the New Order. His chemistry with Rey (and mostly Han) worked great on screen and him trying to play off being a “big deal” brought a sincere element of whit and fun which had been lacking before (especially in the prequels). And following the theme of good vs. bad; the movie did an excellent job of portraying the anger of Kylo Ren at any given time (think of him destroying the entire room out of pure anger). Compared to Darth Vader, he seems much “earlier” in making a career in Dark Side Inc. which is greatly portrayed in his status compared to the Commander of the New Order. Still, I felt he was being much angrier than Darth Vader was during the earlier saga which greatly contributed to the contrast of good and bad (especially considering his back story); I mean they even made his light saber seemingly angry.

That’s the dream

tie-fighters-formationAnother element of excellence in this film was the awesome production design and the beyond amazing cinematography – one great example is the entrance of the “piece of junk” aka the Millennium Falcon. The moment when Rey and Finn were on the run and jumped onto the Falcon – boy awesomeness at its best. Also all the shots with the X-Wings and Tie Fighters in numerous scenes will hopefully be stuck in my head for more than a few more days and weeks. The team gave so much attention to detail, crafting the sets – again staying true to the originals but using newer technology to enhance the experience. Whereas Lucas’ attempts in the prequels (and to a certain extent in the remastered original saga) was to use CGI for the sake of using CGI, Abrams uses it merely to enhance the experience. Finally, the action set pieces of both lightsaber fighting and space fights were just so extremely well done – my hats off to the entire team. Even in my craziest fantasies, these scenes could have not been better. The chase on Jakuu, the attack on Takonada where the crew was meeting Maz Kanata as well as the final attack on the Death Star 3.0 – all beautiful, action-packed and Tie Fighter and X-Wing action as far as the eye can see (they even stayed true to the original sound effects). And last but not least, the stand-off between Rey and Kylo was probably the best lightsaber fight ever captured on screen – not only in choreography but also in sharpness of dialogue...Leaves me to state the obvious: That’s the dream.

One more thing

Before I close this review, let’s also address the elephant in the room. Did J.J. Abrams really had to take away our childhood hero, the badass of all PG-badasses, Luke’s bro, Leia’s sweetheart – was this really necessary? And the answer is Yes. J.J. Abrams took quite a few big gambles (see above) in this film but the biggest was probably killing off Han Solo. And so Harrison Ford ultimately was granted his wish to have Han Solo die a heroic death for a cause which he cared only little for when we met him early on and of which he became a crucial part of in his last moments; but not only does killing off Captain Solo show that J.J. Abrams has director-balls-of-steel, it also makes room in Episode VIII for Luke’s return to the saga and most importantly it gives the new guard around Finn and Rey (who is now bffs with Chewbacca) more room to shine. And that will ultimately be important for the story and character development of the new chapters in the Star Wars saga.

Thank You, J.J.

There is so much more to praise about this movie for but there is only so many words one can find – of course there were some (minor) negatives as well but they were so minor that I am actively choosing to ignore them and let the movie stand as it is; an amazing rekindle of the original Star Wars saga with great actors, beautiful shots, incredible cinematography and a wonderful story. Again thanks to J.J. Abrams and crew, you pulled off a miracle and it was so worth the wait. And now the question now is: What are we going while we anxiously await  Episode VIII?

Info

star_wars_episode_vii__the_force_awakens_ver3_xlg

  • Running time: 136 min
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Year: 2015

 

5 Responses

  1. Alex

    Nice one, Armin. The movie was fantastic. 2 things I didn’t like and you haven’t mentioned: 1) Lea’s role in the movie were totally unessential. No character development, no story development, 1 easter egg (her daugther). Very dissappointing, especially because carrie fischer is in every f***ing talkshow and every interview and acts a little, as if she were is most important character in the movie. 2) Kylo ren: Brilliant character, great actor. But: He took the mask off way too early (gwendoline christie didn’t take her mask off at all and I think this was kind of cool) and the face under the mask is way to likable and nice. I hoped, we wouldn’t see him without the mask till Episode VIII, after some character development.

    Reply
    • Lars

      The mask had to come off to lend the scenes their emotional weight. You needed to see his fear in discovering Rey’s power and you needed to see it during the face off (see what I did there?) with his father.

      Agreed, Fisher’s role was largely inconsequential, but as I can’t really stand the old bat, I’m glad that was the case.

      Reply
      • Armin Fakouhi

        nice one, Lars – I also liked how they showed the fear and anger in his face. Carrie Fisher was kind of a lame duck here; but I believe that Episode VII primarily focused on Han (from the old crew). Leia and Luke will have their showing later on.

    • Armin Fakouhi

      Agree Alex, I could have kept on writing for hours but at some point, I had come zum Punkt. I ended up not writing about Leia because of the reason you mentioned, she was really non-essential to the plot as well (except the final hug between her and Rey). You’re right in criticizing the lack of airtime in my review for Kylo (he was amazing) – and especially his backstory brings a really interesting twist to the story line. Having said that I do believe that from the new characters, Rey’s story and acting was the best.

      Reply

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