Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

There are few films that arrive in theatres with as big a build up — and as high of expectations — as The Force Awakens. The bad taste of the prequels still sits in the mouths of fans (although not as much for me as we discovered this week). The franchise needed a fresh start and J.J. Abrams was given the chance of a lifetime to do it.

After all the trailers, all the toys and all of the commercials, the film is finally here. And the final product succeeds at what it was supposed to do. Star Wars is back in a big way.

The whole film has a sort of familiarity to it, which is ok. I won’t give any spoilers here, but the character arcs for the new characters do on a basic level reflect those who’ve come before. Rey is a young girl without a purpose in life on a small desolate planet, who through a coincidence becomes a hero. Sound familiar?

But even with that familiarity, enough is new that the film is not predictable or boring. But Abrams must have known that talks of space politics and massive armies didn’t work in the prequels. So he returned to what did in the original trilogy: a straightforward story with reasonable — not galactic —stakes.

The film also looks beautiful. Obviously with more updated technology, the movie looks much better than the original trilogy. But it still is episode seven, so the props and costumes are familiar to that era of the films. The action is still big, but by using just the right amount of CGI it just looks better. There are multiple long takes during action sequences that look amazing because of practical effects, not animation.

The new characters offer a fresh energy to the series. John Boyega’s Finn is funny, and becomes the viewfinder for the audience as the story unravels. Daisy Ridley, as Rey, is the surprise of the film and my favourite new character. She does a lot of amazing things in the movie, none of which can be mentioned without spoilers. Just know, she’s a badass. Finally, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is perfect casting. He’s intense, like any good villain, and has way more to do than the many villains of the prequels, which was refreshing. As an aside, Harrison Ford as Han Solo is as good as ever. While the new characters are great, seeing the old characters again adds a lot of fun to the movie.

The Force Awakens leaves much open for sequels, as expected, but still succeeds on it’s own. It mixes just the right amount of action, doesn’t bore the audience with politics and introduces a lot of interesting characters to take the reigns on this new trilogy of films. That’s all anyone could have really asked of Abrams.

There will be a lot of critical essays and reviews written about the movie in the days and months after it’s release. Many are valid, some are not. Regardless, sitting in the theatre, watching The Force Awakens for the first time is such an exhilarating experience, the little flaws are only noticeable if you think really hard about it. If you just let the film wash over you, it will be an amazing experience rarely achieved in cinema these days.

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