[Movie Review] (spoiler free) “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is fresh but familiar

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). (Walt Disney Studios)
Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). (Walt Disney Studios)

Should you buy the DVD? If you’re a Star Wars fan.

Should you watch this at weekend movie ticket prices? Yes.

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 135 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is the seventh film in the “Star Wars” franchise, and is chronologically the latest film to take place in the “Star Wars” universe. It deals with the arrival of a new terror in the galaxy, as well as the rise of a new generation of heroes. It stars Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Luptia Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca).

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has a lot of hype to live up to and a lot of room to go wrong. But thankfully, it delivers in all aspects – story, action and homages. It’s a good jumping point for new fans to enter the series, with its new story and a fresh group of heroes that everyone is equally new to. And even for those who aren’t fans, it’s still a good movie with strong characters and a story that everyone can identify with.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and BB-8. (Walt Disney Studios)
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and BB-8. (Walt Disney Studios)


Stakes and set up established quickly

It’s a big worry for many that the film will be inaccessible, or require extensive knowledge of what has happened before to understand. Fortunately, the film quashes all those notions in the first ten minutes. Exposition on the villains and why they have to be defeated, the stakes involved for all and the exact obstacles that have to be overcome are delivered amidst an action-packed sequence, ensuring that critical information is delivered to the audience without boring them. All you need to know is in the introduction, and any extra knowledge is just gravy.

Well-paced without any lag in the tension

If it’s not an action sequence, it’s a series of revelations or set-ups for our heroes. Not a minute of your time is wasted on pointless scenes or arty shots. As a result, the film proceeds at a chipper pace and engages you thoroughly. That’s not to say there’s no variation in the energy of the film, but not once do you feel bored or lost as the movie progresses. The pacing comes close to perfection in this film, thanks to skilful editing and judicious cuts.

Both new and old characters have story arcs

The lion’s share of character development goes to the new characters of course, since there are more blanks to fill for their backgrounds. But the legacy characters also have their own difficulties to overcome, rather than just being fan service. It’s heartening to see both old favourites and new heroes grow in the movie and yet have the focus be about the Finn and Rey (rather than falling prey to having the previous movies’ heroes be the Mary Sues of the story).


New characters, new leitmotifs! By the middle of the film, you’d have identified the melodies that herald the arrival or presence of the new organisations and cast that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” introduces. Memorable scores have always been a hallmark of “Star Wars” films, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is no different in this regard.

Enough exposition for clarity, enough secrets for sequels

Many, many questions are raised, since this film takes place after “Return of the Jedi” and the heroes clearly saved the day in that movie. Although many mysteries are left for future films to explore, the important questions are answered in this film, ensuring that you have all you need to know for the story to proceed logically. Several non-critical plot threads are dangled for sequels, and provide ripe fodder for speculation.

Finn (John Boyega). (Walt Disney Studios)
Finn (John Boyega). (Walt Disney Studios)


Cliched and shallow villains

Sadly, the excellent character development of the protagonists comes at the expense of the antagonists. While sufficient time is devoted to showing us how the bad guys came to be, it all seems rather trite and simplistic. The villains seem to have little depth to them, and can even come across as rather hammy at times. They’re suitably intimidating, but whether they’re believable is another issue altogether.

Familiar but formulaic


The film relies on many tropes that have been used before in “Star Wars” films, to the point that it crosses from nostalgia into deja vu. There could have been more room for novelty and exploration, but it hews well within the boundaries of safety and repetition, to the point that it sometimes strains your sense of belief. Is it truly possible that some sterotypes are never erase from the “Star Wars” universe?

Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). (Walt Disney Studios)
Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). (Walt Disney Studios)

“Stars Wars: The Force Awakens” brings a new set of heroes for us to empathise with and root for, even if it stayy firmly within the realm of the familiar.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in cinemas 17 December, 2015 (Thursday).


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