As someone who is not familiar with Star Wars – aside from the abundance of Darth Vader and Luke’s meme and the infamous “I’m your father” quote – and only know the basic information about this cultish series, I wasn’t excited by the news about this movie. I admire the massive marketing, of course, and the fans’ enthusiasm, but it didn’t touch me on personal level. It didn’t even get me to watch the original trilogy and at the end of the day, I wound up going blind: watching this movie without getting acquainted with the six existing movies.
Three decade after the Galactic Empire was defeated, an old-but-new threat arise through the First Order. Led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the First Order attempt to rule the galaxy. To stop this, leader of Resistance General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) sent Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to find the map that would guide them to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
But when all doesn’t go according to plan, it would seems like the fate of the galaxy rest in the shoulder of Rey the Scavenger (Daisy Ridley), a rogue Stormtrooper (John Boyega), and an adorable droid BB-8.
To be very very honest, I watched this movie merely because the hype piqeud my curiousity enough and because a chance presented itself in the form of office event. However, I also wanted to see how well J.J. Abrams fare in bringing this franchise back to live. I had high expectations, sure, because I was one of the many who fell in love with and got converted by his Star Trek reboot. So I was hoping The Force Awakens would lure me to fall head over heels for a franchise that I paid no heed before.
Did J.J. Abrams deliver? Yes, and no.
Even as a casual moviegoers, it is plain to see that The Force Awakens is Abrams’ love letter to Star Wars. It was crafted in such way that made it a wonderful delight to see and sit through, even for those who were going blind like me. It was a new story, with abundance-but-not-in-the-face explanations and world building information. It offers new characters to gush over, and maybe I do adore how non-conformist the two titular heroes are. Like, really, you have no idea how happy I am to be spared from seeing an all capable white male saving the universe from extinction. It sent quite a strong message, that even a franchise as old as this one could embrace change and accept that heroes sometimes comes from the most unexpected place in the most unexpected avatars. And yet at the same time, The Force Awakens had more than enough element from the original trilogy for it to be familiar. It is, after all, a continuity of an old tale about the Skywalker family
(and how their family feud puts the universe in danger). It had decent and appropriately placed throwback to made old fans feels nostalgic without making it overwhelming for the new viewers.
It was such a feat though, for Abrams to serve an exquisite blend of old and new. The Force Awakens involves many aspects of the original trilogy and made it all felt natural. It’s not a fleeting cameo or forced inclusion just to appease the dedicated, but it was an important part of the story and you really can’t imagine not having them there. Honestly, it was a calculated bait that intrigued me to find out more about these characters – about the epic love story of a princess and a rogue, about the family that is so strong and yet so broken, and about the ever-present battle between Light Side and Dark Side. Yet they were still plenty room for the new faces to shoot adrenaline right in the heart of this once-dormant franchise and bring it back with even more vigor. I have no trouble understanding the story and could still get the references
– although maybe that’s because I watched one of the first showing in a cinema filled with Star Wars fans.
On the other hand, the simplicity is a negative aspect. While I’m not expecting an intricate story for a movie that serves as an opening of a trilogy and tool to recruit new fans, the story of The Force Awakens does seems a little too underwhelming considering the build up and long wait. It is, to put it simply, a typical mix of zero to hero story and family feud with the fate of the universe hanging by a thread. And not only it’s an overused narrative, it gives little to no surprise on the aspect of both story and character development. I can’t compare it with the original trilogy – although I reckon there’s lots of buzz about its similarity with the original trilogy – but even without that, there are far too many cliches in this movie. Especially in the characterisation and background story of the titular heroes and villain.
I mean, no offense, but we have a mere scavenger who discovers her great hidden power and is suddenly very apt at wielding it, a rogue looking for redemption and friendship, and a vengeful kid desperate to prove his greatness after his family disappoint them. Which of the three did not scream archetypal to you? Because to me, none of them did. And I understand that nothing is original under the sun, even movie’s characters, but such typicality is a huge limitation and I wound up being unable to relate to any of them because they were all too two dimensional and predictable. There was nothing surprising, no great revelation that yank the rugs from underneath my feet, and no particular memorable feelings. Not to disregard the actors performances, but there were no strings attached between me and them. Because even good actings will have a hard time saving plain characters.
Sure, Adam Driver did his best and one of his emotional turmoil was quite touching, but that’s about that because otherwise he’s an empty shell of a tantrum-filled kid desperate to recreate the glory of a long-dead villain. John Boyega was interesting as Finn and he conveyed quite a range of emotions, and Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata was intriguing, to say the least. But Daisy Ridley’s Rey was unconvincing and her expressions reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss in the sense that… I could barely read your emotion and honestly have no idea whether you’re mad, scared, or just downright sleepy. Oscar Isaac, on the other hand, was quite a scene stealer as the daring pilot Poe Dameron and left quite a strong impression. However, it was Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher who actually breathe life into this movie. Reprising their old roles as Han Solo and Leia, they both belonged in this universe and were at ease with each other. It was such a sweet teaser, prompting me to find out more about the origin of their romance. Everyone else, however, was such a passing letdown and I was seriously disappointed that Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma had such little presence and influence.
By a casual moviegoers standard, The Force Awakens didn’t actually offer much. But it is a nicely done introduction to this decades old saga, a stepping stone to know it better and possibly fell for it. And for the established fans, well, suffice to say most of my Star Wars’ fans friends were satisfied with this move. And that, I suppose, is what makes The Force Awakens marvelous and why I would bow for J.J. Abrams. He managed to create a movie that is welcoming and enjoyable for both old fans and new masses alike, without alienating any of them. Turns out he really is a people and fandom pleaser.
Director: J.J. Abrams. Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt. Released on: 18 December 2015. Casts: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac.