Review: Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) (Better Than The Prequels?)

the force awakens(SPOILER-FREE!)

“This is a rescue!”

We all hoped that ‘Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens’ would not sink to the depths of the prequels. I can confidently say that it doesn’t. If I’d have written this review straight after seeing it, I probably would have agreed with most of the early critics: ‘TFA’ is a four or a five star film! It captures what ‘Star War’s is all about, something the prequels singularly failed to do (bar a few scenes here or there). It gave me similar feelings of exhilaration to when I first saw the original Star Wars trilogy, all the way back in 1997. However, after overcoming those heavy feelings of nostalgia, I can say that there are flaws that prevent ‘TFA’ from being a great film.

(I’ll stay away from spoiler territory here as much as I can, although it’s almost two weeks since ‘TFA’ was released. Even though it’s the quickest film to reach a billion dollars at the box office, there must be some people who haven’t seen it (and I’m not talking about the Chinese!))

I left the cinema feeling elated. Star Wars was back, and it’s better than ever! Think back to the original Star Wars, and how one felt after watching it. There was so much unresolved, so many plot strands to consider, and so much space in the narrative to let your imagination run wild. That’s what the prequels failed to do: everyone talked so much that nothing was left to the imagination. The verbose script, rather than the visuals, told the story. In ‘TFA,’ however, they complement each other in rather wonderful ways. A superb example of the visual storytelling in ‘TFA’ is the introduction of Finn, a StormtrooperHe refuses to fire on innocent villagers on the planet of Jakku. We don’t need words to understand his emotions, even if his face is hidden by a mask. In Rey’s introduction, the same applies: barely a word is spoken, but as she gracefully explores a downed Star Destroyer, we are shown her character. In Kylo Ren, we have a villain that can possibly hope to match the menace of Darth Vader. Within the first few minutes of the film, we are shown his lack of compassion and his great ability to use the Force. We don’t need to be told anything: we are simply shown it.

I haven't even mentioned the sheer brilliance of BB8!
I haven’t even mentioned the sheer brilliance of BB8!

That’s a credit to Abram’s direction: he rarely puts a foot wrong in the first hour or so of the film. Everything is shot perfectly, and the camera is rarely static, always roving about. A chase involving a classic ship is balletic and mesmerising; the camera flips upside down and twirls to follow the chase. It is a wonder to behold. We hear funny quips, hilarious repartees, and exposition that don’t bore us to death. Fortunately, the film doesn’t slow down to introduce us to classic characters Han Solo and Chewbacca: they leap headfirst into the action without an overbearing introduction. From the first half or so of the film alone, this film is Star Wars done right.

“I’ve lived long enough to see the same eyes in different people”

It’s the second half of the film that doesn’t live up to the first half. That’s not to say it’s disappointing, but it definitely lacks the sparkle of the first half. No battle scene manages to conjure up as much excitement as the aforementioned return of a classic ship. Characters appear and disappear with abandon, just like certain plot threads. Some plot threads are rushed through. Exposition reigns over visual storytelling. A sense of bloat threatens to overcome everything. And something feels…strange about it. Maybe it’s how closely it treads to the story of ‘A New Hope.’ Maybe it’s how much it relies on nostalgia and winks to the audience.

Nostalgia is a power thing...
Nostalgia is a power thing…

All of the above could also be my over-critical mind examining something that I watched two weeks ago in an overly harsh manner. I had a blast watching it. For one, I laughed louder and harder throughout the film than I have for any proper comedy this year. It’s genuinely funny, for one. Everyone harps on about the use of practical effects in ‘TFA,’ but they do make a difference to the entire film. You only miss them when obvious (and strangely mediocre, in some cases) CGI invades the screen. Although we aren’t even told the names of some of the planets we visit, they all feel ‘real’ and lived in. That’s something the prequels neglected to achieve. There’s a sense of time and erosion to the various locations, rather than overtly green screen canvases splurged with CGI. There are far more positives than negatives to ‘TFA.’

“I’ve always hated seeing you leave”

‘TFA’ may stick too closely to the narrative structure of ‘A New Hope,’ and rely on callbacks to the original trilogy (and there even a mention of a clone army…I shuddered!). The second half of the film may not hold up to the brilliance of the first half. But, overall, it’s an incredibly enjoyable film. I’ve had time to review the film in my mind, but as the credits hit in the cinema, I wanted to applaud. By sticking closely to the original trilogy, Abrams have given us what we wanted: a literal return to form. We moaned that the prequels lacked the spirit of the original trilogy, so Abrams has taken the safe route. ‘TFA’ is a great introduction to Star Wars for those who have never seen it before, and a very good re-introduction to Star Wars fans. It’s quite easily the third best Star Wars film of the saga.

VERDICT: 7/10. A funny, thrilling ride through all of the Star Wars tropes that we know and love. Familiarity may breed contempt in most areas, but it put a massive smile on my face for most of the film! It may slacken off in the second half, but you will be never less than entertained.

Leave your thoughts/comments below!

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace)

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode II: Attack Of The Clones)

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith)

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope)

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back)

(Click here for my review of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi)

 

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20 thoughts on “Review: Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) (Better Than The Prequels?)

  1. Caz December 30, 2015 / 2:20 pm

    I think it’s really interesting that you waited to do your review, I wish you had done a first thoughts posts as it would have been great to see how that changed. I am new onto the Star Wars bandwagon and throughly got into them all, I even like parts of the prequels (don’t judge me haha). I think this is a great cinema experience and gives good feels, but understand how you said it wasn’t a great film and has issues, I agree with that. After my second viewing I found myself with 7 more thoughts haha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hammy Reviews December 30, 2015 / 2:26 pm

      I should have done an initial posting, but wanted to lost my reviews of the previous six films first! But I’d love to see it again at the cinema. Despite its flaw, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the cinema

      Liked by 1 person

  2. rlterry1 December 30, 2015 / 2:25 pm

    A very honest review! I greatly appreciate your willingness to not simply give the film an ‘A’ without critically examine the plot. I’d have to say that you’re is among very few honest and candid reviews of the movie. I also found it interesting that you waited to write it. I wrote mine as soon as I saw the movie, and even after reading a range of views (although most are skewed to near-worship of TFA), I would not change anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hammy Reviews December 30, 2015 / 2:27 pm

      Thank you! I needed some time to think about it. I was weary of all the five star reviews in the mainstream press…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Prawn Master 5000 December 30, 2015 / 11:08 pm

    I thought it was… okay. At times good, even exhilarating at points but a little bland. It lacked depth, it was messy, a little rushed and far far too rehashed. It was Star Trek 2009 for me. Visually great, zippy, some great casting but don’t look at it to much or for too long because you’ll realise its held together by buckets of nostalgia and hype, and that hides a weaker film than many will admit it actually is. It had a lot to do and just about pulled it off, but there should have been more, it should have been better. They played it safe, and meh. The next one could be another Star Trek into Darkness disaster or another EPV but my money is on the former not the latter. Abrams is not as good as the hype would have it, a bit like this film. But he’s not bad by any means, but I think things get away from him (like lost and into darkness) and his vision becomes blurred and the early buzz gets things through on inertia. Having said that his absence from the next Start Trek film looks telling, the trailer makes it look like a turkey turd.

    In TFA everyone was so young among the new cast, it took away from the film’s gravitas. Like Hollyoaks does space or Skins Wars. Emo Ren was a bad choice of villan, too much of a Anakin Prequel walker for me.

    5.5/10 but maybe a 6 if I watch it having not been subjected to 30 mins of ads including one with… James Corden *shudder*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hammy Reviews December 30, 2015 / 11:24 pm

      James Corden? He’ll put you off anything!
      They played to safe indeed, but maybe they are paving the way for something braver in the next two films? After the prequels, the only safe way was to repeat the successful methods of the original trilogy…
      Not a great film by any means! But an entertaining one

      Like

      • Prawn Master 5000 December 31, 2015 / 12:01 am

        At times I was bored but I never disliked it. And once I knew this was going to be New Hope II and I knew how it was going to pan out, I actually hoped it would finish so I could get lunch!

        They’ll stay safe. Disney don’t take risks… they’ve a new cinematic universe to exploit for $$$$ . Maybe a spin off will be a bit more risky but I expect more of the same. More “who’s family is x?” Or “what’s that testicle headed baddie up to?” And the bad guys will really go for it in the next one. Yep they’ll strike back alright. I’ll not get too hopeful and I’ll watch passable movies that make me feel 12 again, which, really, is a mixed blessing. 12 year olds are idiots.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hammy Reviews December 31, 2015 / 4:19 am

          Spin offs? I sense plenty of ‘origin’ stories around the corner…because finding out the origin of Darth Vader went really well!
          Ahhhh, to be 12 again…

          Like

  4. Rodney January 4, 2016 / 1:05 am

    Yes, yes and yes. I agree with your points entirely – I too felt it echoed too closely to A New Hope in certain moments – but as a piece of entertainment it’s as close a relative to the original trilogy than we ever got with those awful prequels. Star Wars is SLAM BANG cinema, not pretentious twaddling about trade negotiations. Ugh.

    Sit back, grab some popcorn, don the nostalgia glasses and enjoy.

    Now, the folks following this one have their work cut out – now that we’re back into the world of Star Wars again, the creative minds of Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow et al have to deliver on the promise The Force Awakens gives us.

    Liked by 1 person

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