Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Directed by J.J Abrams. With Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac and Mark Hamill. 


*At the time of writing, the film has been in theatres for just over a day, which means this is a 100%, spoiler-free zone. 

J.J Abrams’ much-anticipated The Force Awakens feels like being back in the Star Wars universe for the first time since 1983. If, like me, you’re a fan of the adventures from ‘a galaxy far, far away’, it provokes an almost indescribable feeling of joy to witness the rebirth of something that has been sorely missing from cinema, ever since the original film changed everything.

Now that Disney has the rights, we begin without the traditional 20th Century Fox fanfare, which is at once unusual,  that is, until we’re pushed back into our seats by the majestic power of John Williams’ iconic score. As the opening crawl begins to set the scene for what we’re about to enjoy, there’s an immediate dawn of realisation that this is already light years ahead of George Lucas’ stagnant prequel trilogy. Indeed, the very first line of dialogue in the film is – “This will begin to make things right“, which is a clear message to all those who were justifiably confused and bored by the years 1999-2005.

Written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, The Force Awakens is successful on many platforms. First and foremost, it offers new characters that we can effortlessly latch on to. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver are all magnificent, each of them giving strong performances, while carrying the incomprehensible weight of public expectation like a plastic bag full of feathers.

In her role as Rey, a scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku, Daisy Ridley is the biggest revelation in a  star-making performance that will surely go down as one of the most memorable breakouts the mainstream has seen in years. John Boyega too, shares a winsome, fluent chemistry with Ridley – chemistry being an ingredient that flows like the force through the entire piece. As Kylo Ren, a dark agent working for the dictatorial First Order, Adam Driver is worryingly unhinged, playing a complex character who frightens and fascinates.

Then we have the returning cast members, most significantly, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. It’s astounding that after all these years, Ford still has the charm, charisma and physical ability to carry it off, but beyond that, his performance is the most resonant and heartfelt that he’s given in the entire saga.

In terms of overall symmetry with the original trilogy, the film balances the humour and magical adventure of A New Hope, with the dark threat of The Empire Strikes Back. The First Order is a harder-edged, more sadistic organisation than the Empire, as the opening 15-mins sets out to demonstrate.

There’s so much to absorb with The Force Awakens, with its emphasis on the heft of physical effects, combined with loveable characters, new and old. Fans can rejoice, for J.J Abrams has remained true to the original vision of Star Wars, but he has also extended it by offering mystery and intrigue, and in doing so, has given us so much more to imagine and dream about. I can’t wait to see it again! 5/5


About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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57 Responses to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. rlterry1 says:

    Although I disagree, I appreciate the elements of the film you highlighted that long-time fans would find attractive. But we can both agree on John Williams’ score! I did miss the trumpet fanfare at the beginning though.

    • garethrhodes says:

      There’s so much here to recommend. I’m elated that the critics have come out in force for this one (sorry about that pun). An incredibly powerful, beautifully made film.

      • rlterry1 says:

        Pun appreciated! I never said it wasn’t beautiful. Indeed, aesthetically, the film is flawless. Unfortunately, the plot felt like rehash. But to each his or her own 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      With respect, I disagree. I think J.J, Kasdan and Arndt did a wonderful job of giving us a plot that sets the wheels of the series in motion. Of course, there are things that we’ve seen before, but due to the characterisation, action, sense of mystery and humour – there’s nothing problematic about it.

      • rlterry1 says:

        Fortunately, we can both be equally passionate about our views on this film. But, it appears neither of us can sway the other. Haha. At least we both support out opinions, and that’s more than those who cannot supply a foundation upon which to draw a conclusion.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Passion is a good word. Honestly, I found myself physically shaking a few times during the film, as well as having huge waves of other emotions – which I won’t mention for anyone wanting to avoid spoilers. If a film called Stars Wars thrills me and provokes strong positive emotion, I can safely say it’s doing its job.

  2. Marta says:

    I can’t wait to see it again too! It was a great ride: nice balance of nostalgia, new and old story lines and well-rounded characters. I was taken aback for a moment when the Lucasfilm logo appeared but no 20th Century Fox fanfare, pity it was such a part of the SW ritual for me!

  3. bobmann447 says:

    Good review Gareth, and aligned almost totally with my thoughts ( Were you aware of the Daniel Craig cameo? (The Stormtrooper who can be persuaded to leave doors open)!

  4. filmfunkel says:

    It’s so good to know the Emperor’s no longer in the universe and that the long-overdue balance is being restored. XD

    • garethrhodes says:

      Haha! I must admit, I feel a bit bad for George Lucas. After making the three prequels, sitting there watching a film that outstrips them so comprehensively, can’t be an easy pill to swallow. I suppose the $4billion might help ease it down.

  5. Great review! I saw this movie last night and am still feeling buzzed. 😉 For me, the film was a perfect blend of old and new, echoing the strengths of the original trilogy while also taking the saga in a new direction. As a long-time Star Wars fan whose favorite movie of all time is The Empire Strikes Back, I was so pleased with this. Sitting in the darkened theater, watching these characters on the big screen, it felt like magic. My favorite new characters are Rey and Finn; I loved their chemistry, and I can’t wait to find out more about Rey’s background (my friends and I are now betting she’s Luke’s daughter). Harrison Ford was great, and I love that they borrowed a plot line from the Expanded Universe novels and made Kylo Ren Han and Leia’s son. A big thumb’s up from me!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much! I share that feeling of being ‘buzzed’. It’s not often in life that high expectations are met, it’s even more rare to have them exceeded. If this is the standard that Disney are working to, roll on Rogue One and Episode VIII.

  6. Thomas Rhodes says:

    Excellent review! It really is difficult to find things to dislike about it. The baton has been passed from the original cast to the new, beautifully. It’s also set up the next film brilliantly, we know who we love, and we know who we despise, and we’re still left with unanswered questions, much unlike the prequels, where we got closure and a nicely tied bow at the end of each film. I totally agree with your point on Daisy Ridley’s performance, she is so convincing and we find ourselves rooting for the character from the off, very much mirroring Luke in Star Wars. Can’t wait for the next one. Thank the maker!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you buddy – so good to have a response from you on here. What you say about the baton being passed is spot on. I’ve thought about the film all day, and it keeps hitting me in waves how amazing the new cast members were.

      After the awfulness of the prequels, it’s a great feeling to be able to revel in the greatness of Star Wars again.

  7. table9mutant says:

    Great review! Glad you loved it. I did too but need to see it a second time to fully decide how I feel. More than anything, I love the new characters. Especially Rey!! 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, my friend. Do you remember how hard it was to associate with the characters in the prequels, yet how effortless it was to like them here!? I agree that fully absorb everything, a second viewing is essential.

  8. Martin Richmond says:

    Great review Gareth! I 100% agree with everything you said, it’s the return to form the franchise needed. Cool characters, exciting action and an interesting story! Well done JJ and Lawrence Kasdan!!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you, Martin, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it so much too. I can’t wait to relive it all over again. I’m knocked out by how easily I fell for the new characters.

      • Martin Richmond says:

        Daisy Ridley is a name we’re gonna hear a lot more of without a doubt! She was so good and memo to Hollywood, that’s how you write a female lead character!!

      • garethrhodes says:

        Too right, my friend, Daisy Ridley is truly phenomenal. I’m already desperately looking forward to what Rey does next.

  9. Chris says:

    I agree Rey and Finn are likeable and characters we care about. Loved how funny Force Awakens is, whereas the prequels were painfully unfunny.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, that humour that was so prevalent in the 77-83 films, was an aspect of why these films are so well loved. Really, when Star Wars at its best, which is what The Force Awakens is, is a potent mix of high adventure, mysticism, humour, romance and boundless imagination. Great to hear from you, Chris. 🙂

    • jimbelton says:

      Oh come on: They were unintentionally funny in places 🙂

      • garethrhodes says:

        Really? That didn’t hit me at all. The humour was well timed and well delivered, moreover, there were more genuine laughs than a huge portion of the so called ‘comedy’ films Hollywood churns out.

  10. Chris Evans says:

    Great review Gareth! I very much enjoyed this although there’s some repetition of plot elements from, mostly, A New Hope. But it reaffirms by belief that J.J. Abrams is a great director and having helmed two Star Trek reboots and being a Star Wars fan himself he was the natural – nigh, essential, choice. Can’t wait to see the story develop in Episode VIII but in the meantime we have Rogue One to look forward to!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Hi Chris, great to hear from you on this one. I’m happy to know that you enjoyed the film too. Like I’ve said a few times, the elements that were great about The Force Awakens, easily overpowered the niggles. I

      It’s an odd feeling with Rogue One, now. While I’m excited to see any new live action Star Wars film, I find myself heavily invested in the characters of Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Renn. I suppose the best way to think of Rogue One, is as a snack to help stave off the hunger before the second main course of Episode VIII.

      • Chris Evans says:

        That’s a great way to put it Gareth, I’m certainly more eager to see the story continue with Episode VIII but I do quite like the premise of Rogue One.

      • garethrhodes says:

        The cast of Rogue One is very eye-catching, and I like that we’ll be in the ‘A New Hope’ era. Give me a few more months, and I’ll start getting excited. 🙂

      • Chris Evans says:

        I’m sure that we’ll get a trailer for it soon, in fact I’m surprised a teaser wasn’t attached to TFA (especially since it’s less than six months away).

  11. Lloyd Marken says:

    I’m so glad you liked it Gareth. I feel a little bit more tempered with my response. The last third perhaps doesn’t satisfy the same way for me as the first half but I’ll save that for a spoiler driven discussion down the line. But everything you found positive about the film is what I loved most about it too. The biggest compliment you can give this film is it makes you want to watch Episode VIII right now and that means they’ve done it right. “Carry the weight of public expectation like it was an empty shopping bag.” That is a great line and an apt description. I am enamored with these new characters.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Hello Lloyd, it’s gladdening to know that you thoroughly enjoyed it too. I loved last last third, and if anything, I thought it became much more its own movie after that MASSIVE development that propelled the final act. Your’e so right about the hunger for Episode VIII now – it’s a great feeling to not be able to get enough of something. That’s how I feel about Star Wars, again.

      • Lloyd Marken says:

        Hey Gareth, I’ve linked your review onto one of my posts. Just dug some of the things you said and who knows maybe you’ll get a couple of extra clicks. 🙂

      • garethrhodes says:

        Thank you, my friend, that’s very generous of you. I have noticed a huge spike in my stats, so all thanks to you for that. As such a huge Star Wars fan, I feel guilty for not having gone back and seen it twice.

      • Lloyd Marken says:

        I doubt the spike has anything to do with me but I wanted to cite a different opinion you had to me which I thought was another really great way at looking at the third act. Don’t feel guilty but try and see if you can it one more time on the big screen.

  12. good review.. though I found it to be a good movie..just not a great one i.e., it’s no Mad Max!! but I love your passion for it. 🙂

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you Peggy, I think The Force Awakens has added power, as it represents a return to form for a much-loved series that had been sorely lacking in quality for too many years. Personally, I thought it eclipsed Mad Max on an emotional level, which was excellent, but didn’t quite stir me like The Force Awakens.

      • I loved the flashbacks for sure..and it took a big risk with the main, iconic character.. but Mad Max was balls-to-the-walls action that barely let you catch your breath. I guess I just missed having the amazing Jedi spaceship fight scenes here & for me there wasn’t much tension at all..until the end. You are totally right about the lacking in quality part of the intermediate 3. I think we both mention that. I did really like it..just didn’t WOW me or love it as I thought I would. It happens.. 🙂 Happy Holidays!

  13. delvincox says:

    Love your review! Well thought out and even with its faults I think your score is on point

  14. vinnieh says:

    Good review, everyone seems to be loving this movie and I know I’ve got to see it.

  15. jabrody says:

    Nice review! I agree with almost everything you said. This really did recapture that old Star Wars magic.

    • garethrhodes says:

      I’m glad to hear that you rediscovered the magic too. I’ve read some reviews that have been overly snooty about the film wallowing in nostalgia. I miss the days when nostalgia was considered a good thing.

  16. Sean says:

    You know, I did not notice the lack of the 20th Century Fox theme but now that you’ve pointed it out it is very strange to think! That was always part of the experience whether on VHS or DVD, whether original edition or special edition or “even specialer” edition 😉

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, the 20th Century Fox ident was always a scene-setter, with Star Wars. It was notably absent, but it quickly ceased to matter. The main thing is, we got a great movie. That’s what I was hoping for, this Christmas. That, and world peace.

  17. OH MY GOODNESS!! YES! Right now you’re review and points in this piece, are by my favorite with regards to this film! Every single thing you saw, felt and noted is spot on with my own feelings. I’m amazed! More so because as I kept reading, not only did I press the little star before I finished, but I just got more and more excited with what you were saying. Brilliant!

  18. I really enjoyed this film, really the only flaw it had is that it borrows so heavily from the original trilogy. I liked how it established the new characters so firmly and makes it clear that this is their film. The addition of the original cast members was also incredible, I shot up with glee when C-3po shows up with his usual dry, oblivious wit. It did an amazing job to live up to the hype and surpass it. I think it’s obvious that Abrams is a huge fan and he made it for the fans. Can’t wait to see where this one goes.


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