Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars: The Force Awakens a triumphant, yet not flawless, return

January 20, 2016 by Jayden Grieve, contributing writer

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

How Star Wars: The Force Awakens executive producer J.J. Abrams has gone almost 50 years without ever encountering the concept of subtlety is beyond me. Fortunately, he subsidizes this gaping hole in his creative efforts by jamming every second with dazzling imagery and exciting action.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film designed by Disney to sell toys and anything else that could have the faces of the cast stamped all over it, but the byproduct of this endeavour was actually quite good.

The film unites the cast of the original trilogy with an exciting new set of characters who try earnestly to break free from the tired tropes that haunt modern cinema. Together they engage in the exciting space adventures we’ve come to expect from the franchise, but this is where the film hits its first speed bump.

The Force Awakens (the seventh installment in the franchise) teeters dangerously on the edge of being an action film. Star Wars has always been about the characters and their interactions, and the interesting space battles were the fun result of these interactions. The film manages to rein itself in and avoids becoming like Abrams’ laughable Star Trek efforts, but at many points we are left to question the necessity of some of his choices.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens lives up to expectations, but also has its faults (photo provided).

Star Wars: The Force Awakens lives up to expectations, but also has its faults (photo provided).

Another qualm with the film is its frequent use of one-liners and humour in inappropriate situations. Star Wars is serious. Within it there may be some inherent humour, which, again, would require a measure of subtlety, but characters making jokes in the heat of battle is simply not something that should occur within a serious film. This is the movie’s, dare I say it, subtle approach at a Jar Jar Binks mechanism, designed to garner the approval of a younger audience.

It is also impossible to ignore the amount of name-dropping that the characters do at the beginning of the film, another obvious attempt to lasso the younger generation into the Star Wars mythos.

Other than those problems and a few other minor details, the film was executed brilliantly.

The plot is coherent, and any questions raised will almost definitely be answered in the upcoming eighth and ninth episodes in the series.

Newcomers John Boyega and Daisy Ridley performed stunningly individually, as well as carrying a powerful onscreen chemistry that may even rival that of the original cast. But despite the duo’s accomplishments, it was veteran Star Wars actor Harrison Ford who really stole the show.

Much like how the 30 years since the end of the events in Return of the Jedi haven’t made Han Solo any less spunky, the 32 years since the release of Return of the Jedi haven’t compromised Ford’s ability to portray the iconic space cowboy.

As far as the dark side of the Force is concerned, we get much of the same as we did in the original trilogy. Adam Driver’s villainous Kylo Ren provides some interesting insight into the Force itself, and the actor does very well in bringing out the raw emotional nature of his character. The others in the dark side ensemble function as they normally do, providing, even less subtly than the series’ previous installments, intense Nazi-like imagery and mysterious, unclear motives.

It goes without saying, but he deserves credit so it shall be mentioned anyway, that John Williams has yet again provided the world with an elegant and fitting score. It manages to retain the sound and feel of the previous installments while differentiating itself enough that it’s still new and exciting. The 83-year-old conductor continues to outdo himself.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is far from perfect, but it is even farther from mediocre.

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