DrDoom Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS

DrDoom Reviews: STAR WARS EPISODE VII - THE FORCE AWAKENS

Quite possibly the most popular film franchise of all time has finally returned to the big screen. Can the new Star Wars film live up to the hype, or should it have been destroyed by the Death Star? Click on for DrDoom's spoiler free verdict!



The production of the original Star Wars film is a story that has been told numerous times, and so I will not delve into far too much detail here. Suffice to say, it was a film that by all accounts should never have come together. It was the passion project of a young filmmaker who dared to dream that he could create something that both paid homage to the film serials that inspired him in the first place while also injecting some much needed creativity into a genre that had since fallen into stagnation. During production, nothing worked right, nothing went according to plan, and it seemed like the movie was going to be a disaster that would be ignored by audiences and lambasted by critics.

Instead, the 1977 release of Star Wars became a pop culture sensation the likes of which had never been seen. Instantly ingrained within popular consciousness, the iconic characters, unforgettable visuals, beautiful music and the sense of adventure captured the imagination of the entire world. Even for the small amount of people who dismiss the series on a personal level, there is no way to discount the extraordinary effect that Star Wars has had on modern culture, even going beyond the realm of entertainment. Unlike nearly every other major media franchise, Star Wars could be legitimately considered to be the mythology of our time. The timeless struggle of the Light and the Dark Side, which can be seen both as an epic battle between galactic forces and as the personal battle we fight deep within our own souls, is one that will forever be a part of how generations of people perceive the world around them. Star Wars is not just a brand: it is a true unifying Force that binds all of humanity.



This is why when Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars license back in October 2012 from George Lucas for a grand total of four billion dollars, the entire world was sent into a frenzy. The idea that there could be a new chapter of the Star Wars saga on the big screen was one that was often deemed too amazing to believe. With the release of an Episode VII came the chance for the redemption of the series, which many felt had been tarnished by the Prequel Trilogy. While Star Wars had survived for decades through the Expanded Universe material that included hundreds of books, comics, cartoons and video games (with many of them happening to be very strong in the ways of the Force), it was time for a new film. While that meant that the old Expanded Universe would have to be expunged, it also meant that a new generation of storytellers could take full control and return the entire world to a galaxy far, far away.

Now, three years after the legendary deal that gave Disney control over Star Wars, the first film in a new trilogy has finally arrived. It is no secret that Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is probably the most anticipated film of all time, perhaps even more so than The Phantom Menace was back in 1999. People all around the globe felt the call of the Force, knowing that there was the chance for something truly special to be brought to the table. While of course Disney is hoping that the movie will make enough cash to fill a Death Star (and it likely will), they are also hoping to bring about a whole new era for what is easily the most important franchise in entertainment history. With such an ungodly amount of hype behind it, is it even possible for The Force Awakens to deliver?

From the very beginning, the aesthetics of Star Wars are maintained by The Force Awakens in a way that is immediately pleasurable to anyone who can call themselves a fan of the series. The look and feel of the planets, the aliens, the droids, the ships, and yes, even the Stormtroopers, are simultaneously intact and also updated for a new age. The film begins thirty years after the end of Return of the Jedi, and while it is quite clear that time has passed, it also feels like stepping back into a universe that a part of you has never truly left. For people who hold the Force close to their hearts, the opening minutes of The Force Awakens are an absolute treat.

This blending of the old and the new also carries over to the plot and the characters, and the film manages to merge the previous generation of characters to the new one with relative ease. Like any good film, it becomes immediately apparent who the heroes are, who the villains are, and what the stakes are. Also, the film is incredibly light on exposition, preferring to relay many of its details, including motivations of key characters, through expertly crafted visual storytelling. While this also means that a few of the details regarding the state of the universe are left a bit vague, the pace and development of the plot and character arcs are far more important, and in these areas, The Force Awakens excels.

While it is wonderful to see all of the major members of the old cast return to their iconic roles, no one was questioning whether they could pull in great performances. However, the major new actors, those being John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron and Adam Driver as main villain Kylo Ren, are all absolutely impeccable. Each new major cast member expertly fits into the Star Wars mythology, and at no point do you question who they are and why they are motivated to do the things they do. Boyega and Ridley bring genuine emotional weight to the movie as the new leads, while Isaac pulls off his small but important role with all of the enthusiasm it requires. Special mention must be given to Driver, who may have crafted the most three-dimensional, compelling and arguably the most tragic Star Wars film villain yet. While Darth Vader is far more instantly iconic, Kylo Ren is more immediately dynamic, mixing together an intimidating presence with a shockingly realistic sense of vulnerability and inner torment, making for a fantastic antagonist.

Not surprisingly, the visual effects and action scenes are in top form, but what makes them so spectacular is that each one naturally weaves itself into the narrative as well as complimenting the emotional journeys of the characters. The reason why so many aspects of the Star Wars universe, such as the lightsabers, the X-Wings, the blaster rifles and the Death Star have endured is not because they are visually stunning in and of themselves, but because they were involved in moments that served both as action beats as well as emotional points within the character arcs, and The Force Awakens replicates this feat that the Original Trilogy did so well. John Williams' legendary score is also kept intact, with numerous iconic musical cues being perfectly placed. On a technical level, The Force Awakens is simply phenomenal.

There are a handful of small concerns that, while not necessarily detracting from the entire whole, are still worth noting. The most glaring issue is that Gwendoline Christie's Captain Phasma, who was a major figure in the film's marketing, is sorely underused. A couple of the minor plot beats could have used some fine tuning, and Poe Dameron is absent for a large stretch of the film, making his heavy focus in the finale seem somewhat arbitrary. However, these truly are very small quibbles when compared to the vast amount of talent on display here from all levels of the production. The excellent work done in the areas of direction, acting, writing and technical design of The Force Awakens simply cannot be understated.

What is most fascinating about The Force Awakens is that it manages to capture the essence of Star Wars both on an in-universe level but also on a metatextual one. While no one was doubting that The Force Awakens was going to dominate the box office, there was some very understandable scepticism that it could possibly live up to its gargantuan legacy. But J. J. Abrams pulled things together in a poetic fashion, creating a film that manages to both pay homage to the brand that shaped the imaginations of entire generations for four decades while simultaneously rejuvenating a franchise that, at least in terms of its films, had long since fallen into disrepair. The Force Awakens is the film that Star Wars fans wanted and deserved, and it marks an excellent return to form for the greatest space opera of all time.

The Force is strong with this one.

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