Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson
Director of Photography: Dan Mindel
Music by John Williams
Edited by Maryann Brandon, Mary Jo Markey
Written by Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Rating: 9 out of 10
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a really good movie. It has enough nostalgia to keep everyone happy who knows the world enough to enjoy it but delivers many new ideas to hold newcomers’ attention too. Especially the first half is extremely entertaining and well-written and while the movie slags a little bit (just a little) in its second half, it still never gets boring for a second. I was really impressed by the acting, especially the two new leads, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, while I’m still not so sure about Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. There was at least one amazing long take that made me want to cheer along with Finn (Boyega) and overall J.J. Abrams’ directing was more than solid. I’m probably the most in love with John Williams’ score which is simply beautiful. I can’t really say anything bad about the movie. It’s endearing and enjoyable and fun while also being tragic. Coming out of the theater, I wanted to watch it again, which doesn’t happen so often.
I already see the flood of feminist approaches to this movie coming, but who could fault anyone for that? The character of Rey is yet another complex, strong, emotional and fascinating female character as Hollywood seems to have realized that this is not only possible but preferable. And it certainly doesn’t hurt any movie’s success. While The Force Awakens doesn’t do what Mad Max: Fury Road did, it still has some special moments, as when she keeps telling Finn to let go her of her hand, implicating that she doesn’t need a male character’s helping hand because she is perfectly able to fight and stand up for herself. I can’t wait to see how she develops but isn’t it a great time when her character will become one of the role models for young girls in the future? Without ice magic or slave suits but with a lightsaber?
The same goes for the role of Finn, of course. Here is a character that is so rich with potential, insecure and self-confident at the same time. A black character, breaking out of the role that an oppressive society tried to enforce on him, seeking his identity after growing up in a world of black and whites. He says he wants to escape this world only to flee and not because of any moral struggles, but we realize quickly that this is not true, as he really lets his conscience speak and realize that instead of accepting the bad things he is supposed to do and ignore the consequences, you can escape and try to find something new. He, just like Rey, is such a great representative for how many young people feel in our culture nowadays.
And speaking of references to today, the opening scenes on Jakku with brutal armies slaughtering innocent people triggered a series of associations for me. Sure, there is the traditional Nazi connections from the original movies, that you can feel even stronger in the later speech before another planet is pulverized. But the initial scenes of the First Order must feel familiar to modern audiences. I was torn between thinking of Yemen and Boko Haram and no matter how intentional any of this was, it is telling that a Star Wars movie pulls off such parallels.
I also felt strongly about the father-son relationship that is central to the movie. Kylo Ren seems to feel somewhat abandoned, while Han Solo feels guilty for having his son become the next supervillain, for having him slip through his fingers. Maybe what surprised me here is that the father figure is clearly responsible in some way, but it is the son’s behavior which seems not really justified. Sure, we love Han and barely know this strange new guy, but there is something to be said here about being unwilling to forgive and to feel powerless enough to kill your own father, just to feel some kind of satisfaction. I really hope there will be more in future movies because while being intriguing, their relationship still seems a bit too sketchy for me. But I love seeing Kylo’s psychological instability and also how he ditches one father figure just to follow another one.
Anyway, it feels great to have a big Hollywood blockbuster (probably the biggest) which has so many interesting ideas, cares about its diverse cast and still is great fun. I can’t wait for Batman v Superman to ruin that good feeling.