Review: The Force Awakens (2015)

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The Force Awakens greatly articulates and expounds upon the appeal of the enduring Star Wars saga. In fact, at times, it almost seems inconceivable how well the picture reconciles the various aspects of the film series. From its goofy absurdity, comedic edge and inherent mythical portrait of good and evil.

The former of which is lovingly realised in a castle bar sequence that bursts with authentic organic life via its various creature effects. The latter manifests itself in amusing sequences where Finn (John Boyega) pretends to be a member of the Resistance to Rey (Daisy Ridley) Boyega is commendably heartfelt and eager, almost representing an excited avatar for the Star Wars fans in the audience. On the other hand, Ridley in her first on-screen performances shines with a commanding screen presence that makes Rey – an engaging and resilient character. Some of her best moments are with the film’s central villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) Driver is the true revelation of the film with his sweat-inducing intensity coupled with a fascinatingly purposeful physicality.

Inspired by directors such as John Ford, Akira Kurosawa and Terrance Malick, director JJ Abrams has made a visually breathtaking picture, which has some great painterly shot compositions. The most striking example is the 360-degree panning shot that shows two characters on a mountaintop. The moment is a great cinematic example of the mythological heft of the saga. But the sound design proves to be The Force Awakens’s secret weapon as it punctuates moments with great clarity and weight. For example, Kylo’s lightsaber crackles with a terrifying unstable edge that fills scenes with a newfound dread and tension.

However, The Force Awakens primarily succeeds because of its dramatic illustration of good and evil. This is most effectively showcased in a scene over a long bridge where one character tries to comfort and reconcile with his son. The potency of the choice between the two concepts is amazingly realised in this tension filled scene as the father is willing to forgive his son’s actions and how the son reacts to this given his personal conflict with what side of the Force he is choosing to align with. It truly is one of the saga’s best dramatic moments.

Nevertheless, the picture is not without its problems. Despite the emotional and sweeping final act, the film fails to deliver an exciting and kinetic space battle in the vein of its predecessors, which is a shame given the set up for the dogfight in question. As well as the sheer rich cinematic moments that these scenes have yielded in the past. From the masterful editing of the Battle of Yavin in A New Hope to the ingenious opening tracking shot of Revenge of the Sith. Additionally, the film has some glaring plot contrivances that become obvious with even a passing thought. Moreover, the design and effects of Supreme Leader Snoke were underwhelming to say the least. To date, the character represents Andy Serkis’s least engaging and dynamic performance, which is a shame due to his previous magnificent CGI performances.

 

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