By: Muneeb Arshid
Thank you J.J! Thank you, thank you, and thank you very much! For someone, who has never particularly been a fan of the series, Star Wars: The Force Awakens had to be the most fun that I’ve had watching a Star Wars, nay, any film this year.
Not the best film that’s been made, but definitely the most fun film that I’ve watched all year. And there are many things that go into why it was such an amazing experience. All the characters that we loved were back, the new characters that were introduced were great, you had a villain who had his own storyline along with being intent on destroying the Resistance. I’ll just put in a disclaimer at this point that The Force Awakens goes in at #2 behind The Empire Strikes Back in terms of the best Star Wars films ever. Episode IV never really resonated with me, and it hasn’t for many people who never experienced it when it came out in 1977. However, I do understand the relationship that people have with the first Star Wars and won’t say anything to take that away from them. But what The Force Awakens is, is that it is the 1977 Star Wars for this generation, and for all those who only got to experience the Prequels in theatres.
Right from the opening crawl, the first thing that you notice is that this movie is not about any tax reforms and blockades, but about the struggle between the good and the bad of the Force. And from there, the legendary John Williams orchestral score begins its playing. And oh what a score this is. The opening Star Wars theme being played with Dolby 8.1 in the theatre was a magnificence to the ears. And then the Attack on the Jakku Village music just showed the greatness of John Williams and his work and how there was an audible difference in the newer music that had been composed. What’s more important is that Williams has not forgotten about the older pieces of music either, with a newer rendition which has elements of the Imperial March that can clearly be heard within it which gives it a very similar feel that harks back to the original trilogy and ties it in very nicely with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his relationship with the Dark Side.
In terms of the narrative, there are loads of similarities between Star Wars and The Force Awakens. The plot revolves around three new characters who, all in their own ways, become connected to the Resistance and are tasked with finding a certain Luke Skywalker. The plot is very similar in terms of the characters stumbling upon each other and building their relationship and then how Kylo Ren is going about his business because of a certain relationship with someone (trying to keep this as un-spoilery as possible). And then finally, there’s a new “Death Star” which needs to be destroyed once again which follows the story of Star Wars and Return of the Jedi in terms of how it’s going to be destroyed. But what J.J. has done with the script is that, even though some of the plot may be quite apparently similar, there is so much characterization interwoven with it, that the plot has taken on its own character itself and really works to make sure that the emotions of the characters are felt.
I’ve already talked a lot about the movie without talking about any of the characters, new or old. Let’s start with the new, and arguably the most important character of this new trilogy will end up being Rey (Daisy Ridley), who is a self-sufficient scavenger teeming with the Force. She is tasked (kind of) with the return of the droid, BB-8 to the Resistance, who I have to say is absolutely brilliant. BB-8 has his own character to him, which is much more than just beeps and bops, but the comedic timing that the droid has is unbelievably great. The reason why BB-8 works so well is that there is a sort of personal connection with the droid, well as personal as you can get with an Astromech droid, but there is more of a human quality to him than there was with R2-D2. But what Abrams has made sure is that we are not oversaturated with BB-8, that he is used very sporadically, whereas a few of the films prior to this, a lot of the films would’ve featured C-3P0 and R2 and their whole storyline. And that’s not to say that BB-8 isn’t important. Along with Rey, the droid might be the most important piece of the story in this film.
Two other new characters of the Resistance are Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and FN-2187 (original name, I know!) or Finn (John Boyega). Dameron is the Resistance’s most elite X-Wing pilot and is the owner of BB-8 while Finn is an ex-Stormtrooper who accompanies Dameron after a moment of stormtroopery that does not go unnoticed by The First Order. The relationships between both Dameron and Finn and also Finn and Rey are endearing and emotionally raw and real and they hit a spot that makes it such that there is emotional value, not just for the viewer, but also for the characters themselves, and that they are absolutely 100% on point in terms of their development together as a big team.
The characters that older fans wanted to see how they were dealt with, were the original characters, Han (Harrison Ford), General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke (Mark Hamill). The one word that describes their role in this new sequel trilogy is mentorship. They are all mentors in their own way to the new characters that have been introduced in The Force Awakens. Dwelling on the original characters would likely lead to spoilers, especially talking about Luke. But what can be said is that the main plot point of the movie is the search for Luke. But in terms of this movie and how the sequels are going to be set up, it is not the most important plot point. More important plots include the development of the new characters and their acquaintance with both the Resistance and the First Order. But also, setting their character’s up for the sequels that are to follow. If point A to point B is the search by the Resistance for Luke, the most important bit of the film is the path that the movie takes to get from point A to point B.
And finally, Kylo Ren, the brand new villain of the Star Wars universe must be discussed. Again with no spoilers, cause there is a huge potential for revealing major plot points that no one would want to know without watching (seriously? Which rock are you hiding in?). The thing with Kylo Ren that makes him unique from say Darth Vader is that with Darth Vader there seemed to a certain invincibility right from the get go in Star Wars and continued on for the most part until probably the end of Empire Strikes Back, when we begin to see a crack in the mold of the character of Darth Vader. Kylo Ren, of course, has his allegiances to the Dark Side and to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) but, more importantly, he’s got his own personal issues that set him apart as a villain and shows that there is more to him than just following orders from another Emperor. But instead of requiring an entire trilogy to explain his backstory, there is emotional heft and explanation (sort of) about half way through the film which makes you, the viewer, want more of what his character has to offer in the next two movies.
10 years after the last Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, you would’ve been right if you felt a bit of dread considering what we were given with the previous set of movies. But with J.J. Abrams at the helm, I think most people were optimistic, that history would not repeat itself. And those fans were absolutely right, J.J. has done a marvellous job in bringing back the Star Wars franchise and considering the $248 million weekend domestic box office record, I think it’s safe to say, that Star Wars is back, and has the possibility to be better than ever.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens brings back and forms new memories for fans, old and new, and deservedly gets a grade of A- (8.9/10)