Star Wars – The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Free): Can It Live Up To The Hype?

The problem with any new Star Wars film is that it will likely struggle against the weight of expectation that a passionate and intense fan-base will have for it.

If you ask 100 people what they thought about Episodes 1-3, around 90 will say they didn’t like them.

Episode 1? Sure, I get that.

Episode 2? It has aged terribly thanks to an absolute over-reliance on CGI, and it also had some really bad acting.

But Episode 3? That, for me, was great. Everything that needed to happen in it happened. I’ve watched all six movies over the last week and I enjoyed that one the most.force

Expectation is a big thing though. Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. Are they great films? Well they are very good, set in a rich and well realised universe, but they are hardly brimming with sparkling dialogue or exceptional acting.

But because we watched them time and again growing up, we have a huge softness and affinity for them; perhaps through rose-tinted specs.

Can Star Wars: The Force Awakens compete against those idealised views of what a Star Wars film should be?

Is it as good as fans want it to be?

Or is it just a decent film in its own right?

For this review, I will avoid spoilers completely. After all, it’s only 13:22 on release day in the UK. The chances are many of you won’t have seen it yet, and if you’re anything like me, you probably want to avoid even the slightest indication of what it’s about.

So I’ll abandon my usual format and get straight to the point…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – Was It Any Good?

The short answer is yes it was.

By every standard that you would individually measure a film like this on, it came up trumps. It looked great, the acting was fine, the plot moved along briskly, it kept my attention, it combined drama with some comic (but not played for laughs) moments and it had plenty for old fans like me to get a nostalgic kick out of.

The long answer is the key to whether or not it will be remembered by the many as being in the same league as the original trilogy.

As much as there was to praise it for, I think to a large degree this was a retelling of A New Hope. Many aspects of the plot seemed to be lifted out of that to the point where you could question the lack of originality involved.

The same could be said for the characters.

In The Force Awakens you’ve the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, BB-8 and Snoke who are essentially Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, R2D2 and The Emperor with a new lick of paint. And while Rey (the very good Daisy Ridley) and BB-8 are more than a match for their original counterparts, the villains aren’t a patch on what came before them. The fact that they have tried to replicate Vader and Palpatine is slightly baffling; they were never going to be as good.

But I suppose to have the same type of villain is the safe choice.

And that’s what The Force Awakens is; it’s safe. It plays to what has worked well in the past without trying to push the boundaries or be unique.

Is that what the Star Wars franchise needed to get back on track? Probably.

Will fans like it when they see it? Yes.

Will those same fans look back on it in 5 or 10 years time and talk about it in the same breath as Episodes IV – VI? For the reasons I’ve already mentioned, probably not.

But I still enjoyed it, and will likely go to see it at the cinema again.

And that – as far as I’m concerned – is a mark of quality.

 

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One Response to Star Wars – The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Free): Can It Live Up To The Hype?

  1. jabalong says:

    There’s no doubt that The Force Awakens, in and of itself, is a good movie, probably a great one. But “slightly baffling” is right!

    Even as I was enjoying it in the moment, I had this nagging, baffled thought that I’d seen it all before. And the more I think about it afterwards, the more baffled I am by how strangely unoriginal this movie is. It’s not a question of homage or the lifting of some elements, the whole thing is recycled. One reviewer described it as half remake, half reboot. That’s right. I’d best describe it as a re-imagining of the original movies, not just A New Hope. Really it’s the key parts of the original trilogy re-imagined and condensed into one movie.

    What surprises me is that everyone seems to be giving it a pass for this (judging by the 95% thumbs-up on Rotten Tomatoes). I have to think that if this was any other franchise, people might be bashing it as a rehash. My theory is that because there is so much love for the franchise and so much venom for the prequels (though I enjoyed them), people are just so happy to have a well-made, exciting new Star Wars that they’re willing to overlook its unoriginality.

    I’m very surprised though that Disney, after taking over the franchise, wouldn’t have wanted the first non-Lucas Star Wars movie to be something very different and original. From JJ Abrams, on the other hand, I’m not surprised, as to my mind this re-imagining of the original Star Wars fits in with his re-imagining of Star Trek, for better or worse.

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