A storm trooper defies his conditioning and escapes enlisting the help of a captured prisoner who embroils him in the resistance’s quest to locate Luke Skywalker and revive the Jedi order.
J. J. Abrams was in a bit of a strange position; despite the huge expectation attached to the new Star Wars film, nobody really expected The Force Awakens to measure up to the original trilogy and barring some catastrophic error of judgement, nobody really believed that it was going to be as bad as the prequels. Which is exactly the case. Abrams addresses their worst excesses creating a simpler, less verbose and more efficient narrative and ejects the infantile slapstick of George Lucas’s “comedy”. That’s not to say that there is no humour; in fact one of the reasons the film works so well is exactly because it’s actually funny.
Unsurprisingly, the action sequences are extremely well done; the dogfights in particular are thrilling and the new heroes are likeable and have a charm that was so glaringly absent from episodes I to III. The biggest weakness for me were the villains of the piece; Kylo Ren felt a little too much like Anakin for my liking and seemed more like a spoilt child prone to tantrums than an intimidating presence cut from the same cloth as Darth Vader; this also compromises that moment which should’ve had a lot more emotional impact than it did. The use of CGI for his master was also a mistake as it just looks like they are taking orders from a giant cartoon and I couldn’t help but think of the Wizard of Oz whenever he appeared. As a whole, the strengths and weaknesses of the film were reflected perfectly in John Williams’ score. It seemed to be trying to riff off the original to create something new but it lacked the requisite focus and emotional resonance except when it referenced the original explicitly; all the best moments are cherry picked straight from the original trilogy making The Force Awakens feel more like a reboot than a true sequel.
For all its flaws, The Force Awakens is still a hugely enjoyable romp with treasured old friends and it will be interesting to see if the new characters can find their own identity and create a new era of Star Wars mythology that we can all love in the way we did before Jar Jar spoiled the party.