Set 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi (1983), and the seventh installment in the main Star Wars film series, Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens, directed by J. J. Abrams, sees a new threat rise from the ashes. Led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), The First Order are attempting to rule the galaxy, but the Resistance is still strong. Newcomers Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) join the fight with the Resistance, led by veterans of the Rebel Alliance, as they find out the truth about the Jedi force that they thought were only myths.
It’s been difficult to avoid any kind of promotional footage, spoilers, or theories regarding this film over the past few months, and even now there is more and more being written about hidden cameos and secret messages etc. etc. etc. Whether you’ve been eager to find out more or desperate to avoid having anything ruined, there’s no denying that The Force Awakens has been an impossible film to miss. Star Wars articles, merchandise and all kinds of parodies are everywhere. And all we really wanted was to look forward to a film without something new being thrown at us every five minutes.
I’ve been one of the few who has purposely avoided the hype; I knew that if I got caught up in it then I would only have had everything spoilt early on, or I would have lost interest altogether. So, with only the trailers aired on TV to go off, I went into the cinema with only my own theories and eagerness, and the previous six episodes fresh in my mind.
For fans of the Star Wars franchise, newbies or decades-long fanatics, The Force Awakens is undoubtedly the best instalment in the past 20 years. It plays excellent homage to the original trilogy, showing us exactly what the prequel trilogy could have been if they had a man like J.J. behind them, too. I’m actually a big fan of the prequel trilogy, but The Force Awakens tops them in quality, casting, atmosphere, and entertainment. For the millions of younger generations that are experiencing Star Wars for the first time, as well, The Force Awakens shows them exactly what this franchise has to look forward to.
The film has an excellent combination of old and new. Bringing back some of our favourite characters, including Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), it feels like nothing has really changed. There has been a lot of criticism about how similar much of the story is, but whilst there may be the same use of Powerpoint slide changes in between scenes, some very familiar landscape shots and even whole lines of dialogue, all of this is used to make this new episode feel like part of the same jigsaw, making you forget that there’s been such a long wait and change of direction in between.
It’s not necessarily the storyline that feels too familiar, either, as I couldn’t pin The Force Awakens down to being to close to a certain episode, only having essences of all of them. Personally, I think this is one of the film’s best qualities, easing you into a new generation of Star Wars with the old, but teasing you with how good it’s going to get with new characters, twists, and plots beginning to stir up.
And then there’s the new. With the colourful palette of the prequel trilogy, sharper effects and improved CGI, and even more breathtaking landscape shots, there’s so much that has bettered this already phenomenal franchise. The additions to the cast really are fantastic, too. Adam Driver is an unbelievably exceptional villain (despite the comedy character we know him better as), Daisy Ridley is the character the franchise has been calling for, Finn (John Boyega) adds so much to every scene, and Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson are both making themselves quickly two of best actors around at the minute.
There are many faces we don’t get to see, too, with exceptional performances from the likes of Lupita Nyong’o as Maz, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt, and Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma (there’s even voices of Daniel Craig, Yoda, Ewan McGregor, and Alec Guinness in there somewhere). These characters emphasise how brilliant the effects are when you find yourself not cringing out how bad the latest space monster invention looks and moves, especially when it takes so long (or is impossible) for you to recognise them at all.
As with every Star Wars episode, there’s still so much left unanswered and the film ends on a huge cliff-hanger. But whilst you’ll feel annoyed that we have to wait two years to have these questions answered, you’ll find yourself laughing, crying, fist-pumping, gasping, and gripping onto the edge of your seat throughout.
The force is certainly strong with this one, so make sure you’re not the only person in your friend group to miss out on this. It really is the best way to end 2015.