Thursday, 17 December 2015

Review: Star Wars - The Force Awakens (spoiler-free)

World of Blackout Film Review

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (3D) Poster

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (first-pass / 3D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 135 mins / Dir. J.J.Abrams / Trailer

And with that, it all changed. Two trilogies became three, and the legacy continued for a new generation. The following review is spoiler-free, but I'll freely admit it's more a stream-of-consciousness after being thoroughly overwhelmed by JJ Abrams' homecoming parade that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As is so often the case with this sort of thing, I'm still processing (or trying to process) about half of what I've seen. The broader strokes of the picture are firmly there, but many of the details are still buzzing around, as are the wider implications of the film's revelations...

But you're here because you want to know if it's any good, which slightly is ironic since you know I'd love it either way. But yes, The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film you want it to be. It's also the Star Wars film I want it to be, so JJ's clearly doing it right. Episode VII feels new without being provocatively different, but also has a familiarity which doesn't become over-reliant on easter-eggs and callbacks (although there are still plenty of those). As someone who loves the original and prequel trilogies equally, I'll go on record as saying there are stylistic and thematic nods to both, here. While the narrative is obviously more closely linked to episodes IV-VI, a lot of the photography (the aerial and ground combat sequences in particular) is of the 21st century, and fits seamlessly with the action of the Clone Wars era.

Visually, the film's every bit as intricate as you'd want/expect. The 3D is frequently immersive, although I'm still not convinced that Star Wars needs it (watching the film again in 2D will tell). And yes, there's even a bit of lens-flare in there. While the film's pre-press has made much of the "practical effects" in play, there's obviously going to be a requisite amount of CGI/green-screen involved. Both are handled excellently, but you can occasionally see the join, so to speak. But you can't see the pixels, which is more important.

From a performance point of view, TFA is - I have to say - the mixed bag we've come to know and love from Star Wars. There are some fantastic turns from actors we know, some fantastic turns from some we're only just meeting properly, and a couple of "oh, that was the best take?" moments thrown in for good measure. Not that I've been following the game by any means, but a couple of the rumours we've heard turn out to be true, but more of them are nowhere to be seen (thankfully). Some of the screenplay's plot-points are a little heavy-handed, while others are heavy-handedly obscure, and there's at least one aspect of the film which didn't sit right with me at all (although that's for future dissection). But ultimately, the Lucasfilm team are in no hurry to tie up all the loose ends which the film sets flailing about, and rightly so.

Oh, and there's no mid- or end-credits sequence, but this is a Star Wars movie, so you shouldn't be expecting one anyway. Structurally, the film is very much part of the family.

The Force Awakens proudly ploughs its own furrow, yet doesn't forget all the ones which came before it. Whichever side of fandom you sit on, you'll be happy with the result.

"Chewie… we're home."

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
It certainly is.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
It'll be a buy-er, by virtue of the bonus material which will come bundled with it.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
Let's be diplomatic and say that the stars are shining brightly on the younger members of the cast ;)

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It does indeed.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Oh, probably.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Hand on heart, I didn't hear it this first time.
Although the sound of me grinning and drooling into my lap for 2h15m may well have drowned it out

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Well, Star Wars: The Force Awakens stars Oscar Isaac, who played the central role in Inside Llewyn Davis, which also featured Adam Driver, who appeared in Lincoln, as did David Oyelowo, who appeared in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a film which featured the mo-cap work of Andy Serkis, who had a brief role in Avengers: Age Of Ultron, as did Samuel L. Jackson, who also starred in Kingsman: The Secret Service, along with Mark Hamill, who popped up in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, as did Carrie Fisher, who also had a brief walk-on in Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, a film which starred Seth Green, who voiced the Howard The Duck cameo in Guardians Of The Galaxy, which featured Peter Serafinowicz, who appeared in Spaced of course, with Simon Pegg, who starred in Burke and Hare, along with Tim Curry, who also appeared in Kinsey, as did Liam Neeson, who was in The Dark Knight Rises, as was Ben Mendelsohn, who appeared in Exodus: Gods And Kings along with Joel Edgerton, who turned up in 2004's King Arthur, alongside Keira Knightley, who was in Never Let Me Go with Domnhall Gleeson, who starred in Ex Machina alongside Oscar Isaac, who is in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

It was the long way round, but we got there in the end.

…and I seriously hope you see what I did, there.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…
…er, obviously.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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