Today I watched J.J. Abrams’ Sat Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)
Before I get into my usual plot debrief it might be important to talk about some people’s avoidance of spoilers, it was a little over the top this season. I imagine this case was not just because of the immense excitement for the return of this series, but also because of director Abram’s pet concept, the mystery box, which essentially just states that people love mystery and that stories of all forms revolve on mystery. This ideology is most evident in his marketing, which almost always endeavors to explain nothing and obfuscate the story of the upcoming work. Ironically most of the films he has done are really not mystery films in any way, being rather predictable, and this film is no different. Of course this is not a criticism of the film, it is what it needs to be, but just in telling you the genre, a space opera action adventure flick, I have pretty much laid out the narrative for you. The enjoyment of this film is in no way reliant on expectation and surprise, I may spoil a few details that the trailers don’t but it won’t be anything too serious, let’s all relax.
With the big return of Star Wars comes a new era for the setting, the Rebels are now known as The Resistance and are supported in some unexplained way by a new Republic. Opposing these groups is The First Order, a large Imperialist force with a modernized arsenal and a new Dark Side enforcer named Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. The story really does not go into detail on the state of the setting, instead focusing on the personal growth of two new protagonists, Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scrapper on a desert world covered in wrecked war machines from the Imperial era, and John Boyega as Finn, once a stormtrooper, he jumps ship after witnessing the horrors of a village massacre. Together Finn and Rey are on a quest to find Luke Skywalker.
This film is nothing if not well paced, there are so very few details on the setting because establishing two heroes equally is really difficult and Abrams does a great job doing it here. But I found issue with he focus of the film because halfway in the First Order unveil a new planet destroying sphere in space, sure this one is way bigger than the last one but that’s what they said the second time they tried this and how did that turn out? I am not impressed. When I think about the other two trilogy openers, I and IV were both very focused on one plot, in Episode I it is all Naboo, Naboo, Naboo, and in Episode IV it is all Death Star all the time. In both cases the films have a focused goal from beginning to end, this film starts with one goal, diverges for a second goal, before returning to the first. That being said the film does feel very satisfying because of how well done the characters are, how intriguing the meta-narrative playing into the next two films is, and the bountifully creative action on display.
With this film you are in for some deal of fan service, but that’s ok, it’s Star Wars. The fan service may go a second or two too long, but it never interferes with the narrative or with the new characters who are taking their rightful place in the spotlight. There are some negative elements of the film that actually turn into positives because of just how Star Wars they are, these issues are mostly in the dialogue which is sometimes trite, laden with some very stilted exposition, and with some rather groan worthy lines. But this kind of dialogue is just so Star Wars, it is like the writers intentionally wrote it this way to capture the feeling of the series, well done.
While it may be one of the biggest events in all cinema, it is important to state that what this film is, is first and foremost, a fun, family friendly adventure. It is certainly not a perfect movie and if the plot were more focused there would be more emotional involvement in the action finale but the relentless pacing keeps everything moving and the creative and well shot action keeps it all fun. It’s straight up Star Wars with the iconic look and sound, it is pure sci fi adventure made into Hollywood meets Wagner in space by the incredible and all encompassing John Williams score. I hope they can deliver the one missing element of Star Wars (epic scope) into the forthcoming sequels and otherwise I was rather impressed by this film. If you like adventure, especially adventure in space, this is a must watch event of a film. 4/5