Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived. After months of intense hype, speculation, rumours, theories, counter-theories and everything else you can imagine, J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII is finally being rolled out in cinemas. Reviews are in – and they love it. And so do we. Now, it would be all too easy to fall into a Phantom Menace-sized trap and rave about the film, only to see it a couple more times over time and significantly simmer our feelings about it, so we’re not going to do that.
The SquareEyed team had been looking forward to seeing this movie as much as any new release in our lifetime (we weren’t around unfortunately for the original trilogy and were too young to fully appreciate the spectacle of The Phantom Menace when it was released in 1999). Going into the cinema, we were abuzz with a nervous energy. When we sat down in our seats and the screen darkened, leaving us with that epic crescendo of John Williams’ peerless score while the unmistakable yellow lettering crawled across the galaxy, we knew we were in for an emotional rollercoaster.
And that’s exactly what we experienced. It played with our emotions. It made us laugh and tugged on the heartstrings. There were some minor quibbles with parts of the film and its characters, but its safe to say, with the clearest and most reasoned judgement, that it was a truly spectacular cinematic experience. Undoubtedly, the good elements comfortably outweighed the bad. So, without rambling on too much, we give you the 10 most awesome things about the film.
WARNING: HUGE SPOILERS
1. New Stars Are Born
The original Star Wars was responsible for launching the careers of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford and Abrams, like Lucas, has given newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac a magnificent platform from which they will surely reach cinematic, stratospheric superstardom. The acting was solid throughout the film from the entire cast, with Ridley and Boyega shining wonderfully as Rey and Finn respectively. Well-written and likeable characters, their seamless introduction into the franchise was superbly executed by Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan. From this point, we fully expect them to follow a similar trajectory to their esteemed predecessors. They all have genuine star quality.
BB-8 was no gimmick. The adorable droid was central to the story and, resultantly, we got to see a lot of it on the screen. BB held the map leading directly to Luke Skywalker, which forced The First Order into a planet-wide manhunt for a droid. Just like R2 in the originals, BB-8 was able to prompt all kinds of voluntary noises of joy. It was impossible not to fall in love with this character and our guess is that sales for BB-8 toys will go through the roof after kids seeing this film.
3. Han and Chewie Were Just Pure Gold
“Chewie, we’re home.” From the moment Han Solo and Chewbacca embark the Millennium Falcon for the first time in years and we see that glint return to Han’s eye, it’s sheer nostalgic bliss. Of course, it wouldn’t be a proper Star Wars film without Han and Chewie providing some comic relief and we get laughs in abundance when they’re on screen. Of course, the most heartbreaking moment came when Kylo Ren plunged his lightsaber into Han, who turned out to be his father (a total OMG of a twist), but we were still blessed to have had a glorious reuniting with Han before he passed. There was barely a dry eye in the house.
4. The Lightsaber Duel in the Snow
In fairness, the lightsaber action was rather light in the film, but we did get one exciting battle between Kylo Ren, Finn and Rey in the snowy surroundings and it was definitely worth the wait. Ren showed off his skills with his distinctive crossguard lightsaber in comfortably slicing through Finn, leading Rey to stand up and face off with him. Abrams had teased that the duels would be powerful and visceral and it certainly was, leaving us on the edge of our seats for its six-minute duration. While it didn’t quite match up to some classic duels in the previous six films, it was another finely crafted sequence in a film jam-packed with action scenes.
5. First Order’s Intense Nazi-Style Rally
This scene was awesome. Seeing thousands upon thousands of Stormtroopers watching on as Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux delivered a rousing speech before mobilising their weapon and blowing up a few planets for good measure was exhilarating stuff.
6. Blowing up the Star Killer Base
What a visual spectacle this was. When the official theatrical poster was released a few months ago, everyone couldn’t help but notice the massive Death Star-esque structure that dominated the background. As we were to find out, it was the Star Killer Base, a weapon designed and readied by General Hux’s fleet of The First Order. The Star Killer Base was, for lack of a better word, big. It was a cue ball to the Death Star’s peanut, seriously. Of course, The Resistance had a former First Order Stormtrooper in its ranks in the shape of Finn and, along with the help of Poe Dameron’s X-Wing attack, a Resistance fightback led by General Organa (Leia) blew up the Star Killer Base in the movie’s most triumphant moment.
7. Kylo Ren’s Emotionally-Charged Backstory
Talk about emotionally shattering, eh? And who would have seen that twist coming!? Many theories before the film had focused on the origins of Kylo Ren, who he was and where he came from. Well, Abrams dropped it in rather subtly that he was the son of Han and Leia and it left us all speechless. The story went that he was one of the Jedi trained by Luke Skywalker, but eventually turned against him and embraced the Dark Side, which prompted Luke’s disappearance after believing that he had failed. Kylo Ren’s emotionally-charged backstory is emanated in Adam Driver’s gripping portrayal of Darth Vader’s spiritual successor and devotee. An interesting villain with a history, we can’t wait to see him in Episode VIII once he has “completed his training” with Supreme Leader Snoke.
8. The Millennium Falcon Is Back In Action
Come on, it’s the Falcon! Seeing her back in action was just all kinds of awesome. We don’t really need to explain it do you? Seeing Rey taking control though was kind of special! The effects in the Falcon’s scenes were thrilling. We knew they would be, but they didn’t disappoint.
9. Supreme Leader Snoke
There is so much potential for Snoke (voiced masterfully by Andy Serkis) for the coming films. Whether he will reach an evil grandeur and presence like Palpatine remains to be seen, but there is a lot of scope for character development here. Snoke appears only as a hologram – and a frickin’ giant one at that – but we sure hope to see him in his true form. We’re guessing that will definitely happen as he seeks to “complete Kylo Ren’s training.” Are you braced for more of the Dark Side?
One of the greatest things Abrams managed to pull off in the film was to keep us guessing about the exact whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, constructing this image of him as a myth and an otherworldly presence as Leia leads the mission to find him once again. Basically, everyone in the film is looking for Luke, but we’re forced to wait until the very last scene, when Rey travels to an ruinous Jedi Temple, along with Chewie in the Falcon and walks up the steps to discover a cloaked figure standing there with his back to her.
He slowly turns and unhoods himself. There he is. It’s Luke. Rey has been yielding Luke’s lightsaber ever since it chose her in Maz Kanata’s dungeon playground but she knows who its rightful owner is. She reaches out her arm and offers the saber to Luke, but he stands there staring at her. Then the credits roll. That’s it people. We have to wait two more years to pick it up again and boy we can’t wait.