Review: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review: STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

The first live-action STAR WARS movie in ten years is a sigh of relief: a massively entertaining, if heavily-flawed epic space opera filled with plenty of memorable characters, spectacular action and riveting storyline.


(*Note: This review is spoiler-free.*)


When George Lucas finally wrapped up the STAR WARS prequel trilogy with STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH in 2005, it looked as if the enormously lucrative franchise was officially over. Of course, the STAR WARS legacy still lived on with an animated makeover just three years later in the form of STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS, as well as its subsequent six-season animated series and the still-ongoing Star Wars Rebels animated series. Then somewhere in between, a brand-new sequel trilogy was announced shortly after Disney has finally acquired the ownership of Lucasfilm on October 2012, starting with Episode VII which later officially known as STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Directed by J.J. Abrams, the seventh instalment of the STAR WARS series has finally arrived in the cinemas everywhere. In fact, prior to the release, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS are greeted with such huge fanfare that the movie is easily positioned as the biggest movie event of the year. Anticipation is running high and almost everyone is talking about it. But here lies the real question: does the movie deliver? I'm happy to say that J.J. Abrams has done a commendable job re-igniting the STAR WARS franchise once again after a decade-long hiatus since the 2005 movie.



WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

Set 30 years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI (1983), STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS returns to a galaxy far, far away with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his old friends join forces with new allies -- including Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) -- in an epic quest to face against a new enemy, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his army of Stormtroopers.



THE GOOD STUFF

Thanks to J.J. Abrams' exuberant direction, he has successfully brought back the kind of childlike wonder that captured the style and spirit of the original trilogy. Action sequences are also aplenty, with some of the dogfight scenes are among the best ever staged in the STAR WARS series. Even though the movie clocked at 135 minutes, the movie is pacey enough to keep you occupied throughout the running time.

The plot, in the meantime, has the familiar narrative beat that characterised the first STAR WARS movie, while offering a shade of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK-like subversive twist on the other end.

For those who have complained about too much CGI abuses in the prequel trilogy can finally rest easy, as Abrams and his technical crew made wise choice blending old-school practical effects and digital trickery that is both seamless and visually stunning to look at.

Although already in his twilight age, legendary composer John Williams hardly shows a sign of declining quality when comes to rousing and spectacular music score.

When STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS teaser is first revealed on the internet, it is clear that Abrams wanted to focus more on the new characters. Here, series newcomer including John Boyega and Oscar Isaac, are each given distinctive and robust personalities that are bound to be favourites among the old and new generations of STAR WARS fans. Then there's the introduction of cute but reliable BB-8, which is easily one of the most endearing droid characters since R2-D2.

But of all the new characters here, I really enjoyed Daisy Ridley's performance the most. As the scavenger Rey, the 23-year-old British beauty displays the kind of tomboyish and feisty quality that instantly reminds me of Keira Knightley's acting prowess.

As for the recurring characters, it's nice to see Harrison Ford still has what it takes in reprising his iconic character as Han Solo, especially the way he exudes his trademark swaggering charm. Peter Mayhew is likable as always in his beloved role as Chewbacca, while Carrie Fisher brings a subtle touch of maturity to her role as General Leia (in which she is now addressed as such, rather than Princess Leia in the original trilogy). Also not to forget is the brief but wonderful returns of C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker).



MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)

The extensive dogfight scene involving the Millennium Falcon in planet Jakku.

THE BAD STUFF

One of the biggest contributing factors in the STAR WARS original trilogy is Darth Vader, which is highly regarded as one of the most memorable on-screen villains ever seen in the Hollywood history. Even the heavily-criticised prequel trilogy has its moment in the villain department, which is none other than Darth Maul in STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE (1999). Unfortunately, the new movie has somehow failed to produce a memorable, let alone captivating villain worth praising for. As it turns out, Adam Driver's would-be iconic performance as Kylo Ren lacks the intimidating presence of Darth Vader and even devoid of the physically cool factor of Darth Maul.

Another glaring problem here is the tense, but curiously mediocre lightsaber duels that don't have the same cinematic impact seen in previous instalments such as Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980), Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Darth Maul in THE PHANTOM MENACE, as well as Obi-Wan Kenobi vs. Anakin Skywalker in STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH.

FINAL WORDS


Despite the shortcomings, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS remains a satisfying cinematic experience worth watching on the biggest screen possible. Anyway, I've seen this in the IMAX 3D presentation during the press screening and the result is truly an immersive viewing experience.

* This review is written courtesy from Walt Disney Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

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