Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Believe the hype. Relive the fantasy. The Force Awakens brings back all the magic.

The Force Awakens achieves impossible things. It feels like a worthy sequel to the original Star Wars trilogy, it gloriously improves upon the glaring mistakes of the prequels and perhaps most importantly, it lives up to the unimaginably enormous hype.

Talking about the film and not revealing key aspects of it that have been a closely guarded secret for months (and should remain that way for maximum impact) will be unlikely, so this review will talk about what works and why. Plot points that have been widely expected to occur on Internet discussion forums do take place here while other speculated rumours are simultaneously squashed. In essence Force Awakens pays homage to the very first film in the series, A New Hope, and as a result the structure and nature of what is revealed and how it’s revealed feels familiar. But familiar does not mean similar and Abrams, working along with co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt inserts enough new vibe to make this a modern, fresh retelling.

Take for example the bold subversion of the conventional idea of who plays the lead in a film as mainstream as this. The Star Wars series has always presented them in threes, but this is the first time that the main character, Rey, is a female, her buddy Finn, a black ex-stormtrooper, and the resistance pilot Poe who helps them out, a Hispanic actor in real life. The influence of postmodernism doesn’t end there – one of the weapons used by the First Order, a Third Reich like military organization formed from the remnants of the older Empire, uses solar energy to power itself. You can bet this isn’t your father’s Star Wars anymore.

One of the biggest questions that has lingered on everyone’s mind is whether Luke Skywalker is anywhere in the final product. In a shrewd extension of the film’s astute marketing, that very question is a mystery in the film as well and in some ways, the driving force behind everything that happens. You’ll just have to watch it to figure out what that means – and everything from the opening text crawl to the bittersweet ending only underscores this. The script carefully considers the myth and lore of the series and is considerate towards it. It is also very polished, to the extent that characters develop even in the midst of the fierce, explosive action, such as during the introduction, where Finn grows a conscience. As has been the case with both sets of trilogies before this, the story hits home by being relatable. There are filial associations that surprise and a newer generation of both heroes and villains that rise to the occasion, with the older ones making an appearance to pass on the symbolic baton. The politics of the saga are also carved with clarity – all the bloated talk from the Lucas era has been replaced and we are left with just the Resistance and the First Order who are fighting each other and represent different ideals.

To many, it will feel like Abrams has faltered, that he has taken the easier, safer route, and it is true that Abrams works here within his comfort zone of revivals and remakes (apparent in his work on both Star Trek and Mission Impossible 3) but he delivers in huge doses with thrills, excitement, crackling energy – you know, all of those things missing from the prequels. Even facets of his direction and approach that didn’t work in Super 8 – his slavish homage to a much loved source material and the adherence to formula – exist here too, but the relentless pacing, the superb, carefully attentive and detailed visual effects that never overpowers the narrative, a sense of peril that feels real and most of all the loving, almost playful treatment of the story and characters elevates Force Awakens to greatness.

There is no other way to say it. Believe the hype. Relive the fantasy. The Force Awakens brings back all the magic.

Rating: ★★★★★

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com