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Lawrence Kasdan
Screenplay


Micheal Arndt
Screenplay


JJ Abrams
Screenplay - Director


























Movie Review
Star Wars Episode VII - The Force Awakens:Not Just a Great Star Wars Film.


STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS

NOT JUST A GREAT STAR WARS MOVIE

Screenplay – Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt, George Lucas and J J Abrams
 

The much-awaited and much-hyped seventh installment of George Lucas’ epic space opera series is here, and boy, has the world noticed! Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits you with a mixture of breathtaking special effects, intense performances, and pure, cinematic genius from the get-go – all in an age where one struggles to witness a truly powerful movie that hits you right in the proverbial feels.

Sitting in the movie theater in hushed silence, one can almost feel a sense of camaraderie as each member of the audience sits perfectly still, our jaws hanging open, goose-pimples lining our arms, and eyes shining with nostalgia as we watch the words: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” lead to the opening text sequence scrolling past the screen. Distributed worldwide by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and produced by Lucasfilm along with director/writer JJ Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set approximately 30 years after 1983’s Return of the Jedi.

As was witnessed at the end of the original trilogy, the Galactic Empire has crumbled. Among the several splinter factions that arose soon after, is the First Order: a fascist military power that is hell-bent on eliminating the new Republic and regaining control of the galaxy. In the opening sequence, we are informed that The Resistance, led by the now General Leia (Carrie Fisher), is searching for the last Jedi knight, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has disappeared. It is during this desperate hunt for Skywalker that the events of The Force Awakens unfold.

Featuring both fresh faces as well as seasoned veterans, this movie introduces two new protagonists – Rey and Finn. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a tough but compassionate young scavenger on the junkyard planet of Jakku, who teams up with Finn (John Boyega), A.K.A FN-2187, a runaway Stormtrooper who disagrees with the violent and dictatorial ways of the First Order. Both Ridley and Boyega deliver strong, believable performances: while Rey is spirited and warm yet hauntingly lonely, Finn offers viewers a refreshing new perspective on Stormtroopers.

Among other newcomers are the wise and quirky Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o), an ancient space pirate who is almost like an orange, goggled Yoda; Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), a lackluster portrayal of a First Order officer; General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), the ruthless Commander of the First Order’s Starkiller Base; and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who is the political leader of the First Order. Serkis’ expression of this mammoth character is, as is expected of him, convincingly evil. However, something seems to be lacking in the Supreme Leader’s overall portrayal in this film. Perhaps this is because viewers will no doubt compare this new all-powerful villain to the diabolical Emperor from the original films. Of course, more will be revealed on this character in future installments, and we look forward to quivering under Snoke’s wrath when the time comes.

Set in a world where the Force and Jedi are considered far-fetched myths, Rey and Finn must protect BB-8, an adorable astromech droid that belongs to Resistance X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who has hidden crucial information about Skywalker’s whereabouts within the bot. Although the dashing Dameron is rarely seen throughout the movie, he still leaves a lasting impression in our minds. Isaac practically oozes cool in his portrayal of the swashbuckling Dameron, and this easy nature is almost reminiscent of the dry-witted, charismatic Han Solo of the original trilogy. Speaking of which, Harrison Ford reprises his iconic role as the magnetic ‘scoundrel’ Han Solo, along with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), his loyal Wookiee co-pilot. Together, the smugglers are reunited with the Millennium Falcon, and viewers are granted an elating sense of satisfaction mixed with nostalgia when Ford utters the words: “Chewie, we’re home.”

Indeed, Star Wars fans feel right at home as The Force Awakens expertly weaves references to earlier films along with fresh heroes, villains, and new-age effects. It seems that technology has finally caught up with Lucas’ larger than life vision, and Abrams delivers this with a fearless finesse and mastery that the science fiction world will continue to treasure him for.

Within this carefully crafted, meticulously conducted orchestra that is underlined by Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ score, is revealed a new villain to fear: Kylo Ren, a Commander of the First Order and master of the Knights of Ren. Method actor Adam Driver captures the essence of this character’s fiery temper, whilst also shedding light on his almost fragile, conflicted nature. Along with an upgraded lightsaber design, costume designer Michael Kaplan echoes Darth Vader’s classic attire and mask with Ren, though the writers cleverly avoid painting this character as ‘Vader 2.0’ – Ren does not attempt to be the seminal Sith Lord of the original trilogy, but rather takes inspiration from him.

While Driver brings forth Ren’s contrasting personality, our protagonists – Rey and Finn – under the guidance of Solo and Chewbacca, race to deliver BB-8 to The Resistance.

Rather than simply being sidelined as an older character that is only present to hand the proverbial torch over to the younger generation, Harrison Ford took center stage, and pretty much owned it whilst handing over said torch. Reprising a role that has avoided remaining fastened to its original disposition, as characters in sequels often run the risk of doing, Ford portrays a character that has evolved and grown over the 30 years that have transpired between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. Chewie, too, appears to be more travel-worn and matured, yet their banter and bond remains as entertaining and heartwarming as it was in 1977. Sharing the screen with Ford, Ridley and Boyega, too, deliver memorable performances. While John Boyega expresses Finn’s inner dilemma so well that one can even sense his anguish through his Stormtrooper helmet, Daisy Ridley gracefully portrays the hollow isolation and emptiness within the strong, independent Rey. In fact, she expresses this with such conviction, that we are briefly reminded of Carrie Fisher’s portrayal of Princess Leia in the original trilogy.

Fisher herself appears as General Organa in the film, and although her portrayal could be perceived as a tad stoic in comparison to the bold, spirited Leia we all remember, she describes this altered, older Leia as: "Solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed to her cause, but feeling somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed." Despite the solemnity of the situation, however, this dark tone is somewhat lifted by heartfelt scenes between Leia and Solo, simultaneously granting The Force Awakens a much-needed sense of continuity from the original storyline.

Retro aspects are perfectly countered with new-age CGI, but Abrams is careful to avoid overusing the dreaded ‘green-screen trickery’. Instead, action scenes feel real and grounded, and the bulk of production focuses more on actual designs and realistic, believable creatures that have been painstakingly constructed under the leadership of art directors Alastair Bullock and Neil Lamont, and senior CGI animator Laurent Benhamo. Director Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel bring the film to life with long, wide takes in breathtaking locations, spanning from dry deserts to snowy mountainsides and lush forests. From film editing (Maryann Brandon) to production design (Rick Carter), casting (Nina Gold), hair/makeup, well-timed humour and of course the essential visual, sound, and special effects – each aspect of this sci-fi space opera comes together to form a thrilling experience, making The Force Awakens not just a great Star Wars movie – but rather, a great film in its own right.

Impressive explosions and stunts lead to some gritty action and an exhilarating lightsaber duel that abounds with flashes of red and blue electricity, leaving us with the impression that heavier action is to be expected in Episodes VIII and IX.

What was truly disappointing, however, was that the 3D effects weren’t nearly as exciting as one would expect; in fact, a 2D IMAX experience will deliver a far more enjoyable experience than the dimly lit, headache-inducing ordeal that 3D-viewing can sometimes be notorious for. Nevertheless, the brilliant writing saves us from further contemplating on this setback, since viewers are so much more invested in the gripping stories of the main characters. No movie is flawless, but this one certainly raises the bar.

And yes, while we’re on the subject of disappointment – know that you will be left with more questions than answers, and not a shred of finality. However, these frustrating, unanswered questions are what will allow for continuity in future episodes, which we expect will be just as action-packed and fast-paced as this one.

In the prequels, viewers were told the plot. In Abrams’ version, however, we are shown the plot. We experience it. We are a part of it. And so, despite being left with a dozen more burning new questions, we are also left with a delightfully aching heart – for that is what The Force Awakens is: an emotional rollercoaster that will leave you gasping, laughing, cheering one minute and crying like a baby the next, and, above all – wanting more.

The Force has, indeed, awakened, and boy, you do not want to miss it.

                                                                                    



   Tina Mohandas

Tina Mohandas is a songwriter, musician, tattoo artist, vintage motorcycle collector, and animal rights activist. Having conducted several successful events in London, she is the founder of Inferno Events in India, and co-founder of Bikerhood India. Currently writing her debut fantasy/sci-fi novel, she hopes one day to free every caged animal in the world..

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