I was whooping and cheering in my seat as soon as the iconic Star Wars text scrolled on the screen. I was back up on my feet as the Millennium Falcon took flight at long last. I, as the rest of the crowd I was with, didn’t resume our seats after Hans Solo first took aim at a Stormtrooper with his blaster. Over three decades after the original trilogy ended, the most influential movie franchise in the history of cinema is back with Starr Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, this time helmed by J.J Abrams, the lesser Joss Whedon who resurrected the defunct Star Trek franchise. What’s the verdict on Episode VII? Read on to find out.
Episode VII begins thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The First Order has replaced the Sith and the Galactic Empire as the villains in this one, with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leading its charge against the one weapon that can help the Resistance. Cut to the adorable droid BB-8 (Take that R2D2), who crosses paths with Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger of questionable and Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper who has had a change of heart who then must band together to find this weapon to destroy the First Order once and for all. And I know, the plot I just described sounds very vague but trust me, I don’t want to shipped off to Pakistan or shot at just because I gave away too many spoilers.
WOOS: Where do I even start? For a Star Wars fanboy who would happily forgive the glaring imperfections of the previous films, Episode VII is manna from heaven. I was cheering, whooping and howling in my seat, just a few verbs that describe the fun I had. Director Abrams has made a film that is not only true to the spirit of the original trilogy but, one which also reveres the same with unabashed nostalgia. This is truly a film made for fans. That however, does not mean that Episode VII is not meant for converts. From the thrilling action sequences and lightsaber battles, to the rousing John Williams score and cheerful humour that courses through the film, this film has most of everything for everyone. Most importantly, Episode VII has heart, which is more than I can say for much of the prequel trilogy.
The characters and the actors playing them are all extraordinary. Daisy Ridley brings a fierce independence and spirit to Rey, and her character deserves not only to be the focal point of the franchise to come but, is also way better than the often mopey and uncharismatic Luke Skywalker. Boyega is a surprise too, using his disarmingly witty lines to win over a fan base that was already too rigid over praising new characters. Same goes with the always fantastic Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, a worthy addition to the canon. And then there is Han Solo, hands down the best character in the series after Darth Vader and Yoda. Enough said.
MEHS: In retrospect (Yes, I was too into the movie to think of its faults), Episode VII often comes off as too nostalgic and respectful of the films before it. Nostalgia notwithstanding, there are clear references and callbacks to the films before it, and Abrams has liberally borrowed plotlines as well, which is why for most scenes you see, you can always trace its trajectory back to a similar plot of reference in the previous films. None of this hampers the ‘Wow’ factor of the film but, for fanboys like me, it does make it slightly more safe and predictable.
Kylo Ren is a worthy villain for the Star Wars franchise (Nothing on Vader though). He is fierce, intimidating, ruthless and his introduction scene is way better than Vader’s all those years ago. Plus, he has a cool mask. It is therefore a shame that Ren loses his mask mid-way through the film. I know it is meant to make him more human and vulnerable (another hark back to Return of the Jedi) but, his aura as the prime villain loses something. That said man, can he wield a lightsaber.
Also, we didn’t see much of the so many characters we were promised. Captain Phasma and Emperor Snoke disappear as soon as they appear and, we don’t see much of the sass that defined Princess Leia.
VERDICT: Star Wars Episode VII isn’t a perfect film. Far from it, actually. And yet, it works. Episode VII engages, thrills and rouses the audience, both converts and especially fanboys more than any other film this year. For a franchise that disappointed millions with its prequel trilogy, Episode VII is a breath of fresh air. I enjoyed it immensely, more than any other film this year, imperfections and all. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if Episode VIII was screening next door, I would have made my way there. Go for it, for the Force is strong with this one.