Film Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega. Directed by J.J. Abrams.

So. Much. Hype.

Never in recent memory has a film been so anticipated. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has pulled off the near-impossible, being the most highly-anticipated film of this millennium, all the while keeping details of story, characters, and most importantly plot twists under wraps. It’s also managed to tie-in character merchandising with oranges, but that’s another story.

With all this in mind, this review will be spoiler-free. I’m not going to comment much on the story, or speculate on the way in which director J.J. Abrams and the writing team will take the Star Wars franchise. If you’ve come here looking for answers, then my advice to you is this: don’t go hunting for them. Instead, shut down your social media streams and get thyself to a cinema as soon as you can and take it all in afresh. You will be thankful you did this, because this is how Star Wars is meant to be digested.

So what to say? Well, The Force Awakens is set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The action centres around two new young characters, who together with droid BB8 (don’t pretend you haven’t already requested one for Christmas) head off on adventure to bring hope back to a galaxy where the Empire is striking back, again. I want to say more about the story, but as I said, get yourself to a cinema before your loud-mouth friends do.

What I will say, is that J.J. Abrams is the right person for the job. There’s been a real burden on his shoulders and pressure to get this right – and thankfully, he does. This feels like a Star Wars film, it looks like a Star Wars film, it sounds like a Star Wars film, and best of all it thrills like a Star Wars film. Nostalgia reigns supreme as we watch the Millennium Falcon soar through space, droids beeping and saying so much with body language, and a score that evokes so much emotion and nostalgia. Abrams has recaptured the way in which the original films established scenes with lingering shots, wry humour is used with expert timing, and action sequences aren’t dumbed down.

It’s also a delight to say the young blood in The Force Awakens outshine the old. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are excellent in their roles, especially at evoking a real sense of excitement that lures you into their adventure. They are working out their place in the story as we are. If I have one gripe with this film, it is the approach of computer-generating a couple of key characters, something which J.J. has stated he was working to avoid. I guess, because, Jar-Jar.

‘While there’s light, there’s gotta be a chance’

As with all Star Wars films, there’s a fight between good and evil, represented by light and darkness. There’s a gazillion articles online written about this, but in The Force Awakens, the line between good and evil is blurred more than ever. Particularly (and this isn’t a spoiler – it’s in the trailer) in Boyega’s Finn. Formerly a stormtrooper, he suddenly clicks that his mission is evil, and sees the light (so to speak). There are plenty of moments that have us asking, even of ourselves – are we good or evil? Is there really hope in the world? Is it possible to contain both light and darkness? This is accentuated by J.J.’s use of light and darkness in scenes – I’m willing to say that there is more darkness here than any other film in the franchise.

‘It’s true, all of it.’

The Bible tells us that this world is full of darkness, and that this is indeed within us. But in his goodness, God sent Jesus into this world to save us from our darkness (our sin). Jesus is often called the light of the world, and as is so beautifully written in John 1:5:

‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’

As we watch the rebellion take on the evil First Order in space, it mirrors a real battle that is going on for our hearts. By default we want to walk in darkness, but Jesus makes it possible for us to be set free from sin and death. And people are changed from being in darkness to light all the time – and it’s only made possible by trusting in Jesus. As we open the Bible we read of this tremendous truth that isn’t mythology, it’s true – all of it. The light has come into the world (which we’ll be celebrating at Christmas next week), and he came for you and me – to rescue us from darkness and who has brought us into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12).

The Verdict: It’s taken 32 years, but finally there’s a new hope for the Star Wars franchise. Just like the original movies, it’s cinema done right. Avoid spoilers, avoid spoilers, avoid spoilers. Get to a cinema now, you won’t regret it. 4.5/5

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in cinemas everywhere today.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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