SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn't so much a typical fantasy as it is a sweeping display of history and scattered remnants. Ever since the historical release of Star Wars in 1977, the adventures of the Skywalker family have enraptured and resonated with countless individuals. To say that The Force Awakens is anticipated isn't enough. It's a defining Event with a capital E, a juggernaut, and a historic beginning for a whole new generation. It's overwhelming to think, even after my second viewing, that I've seen a new STAR WARS story. Even better is the fact that JJ Abrams has done the impossible. It's the best Christmas gift that I could've asked for.
Expanding on the events of the beloved Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens simultaneously inverts and furthers the Saga, grasping the very nature of the past and placing previous STAR WARS episodes into the realm of Myth. Crashed Star Destroyers and AT-ATs signal a new beginning, one birthed out of the desolation of the battles long ago. It's a shift in the Universe, a purely visual dissection of a culture that, as moviegoers, we've observed throughout its various stages of evolution.
It's evident, from the opening image of The Force Awakens, that expansion is the fundamental idea in a story that takes homage and transforms it into rich archives of bygone experiences. JJ Abrams has never made a movie like this, and I believe it'll never happen again in his career. Stillness builds and contrasts with the continuously brisk pacing, resulting in images that never lose intimacy even within a surrounding plot of constant development. Set-pieces feel elemental, crafted through rough choreography but filmed in tangible environments. And every movement of the camera, whether in gorgeous forests or amber-lit villages, feels right at home.
It is indeed a JJ Abrams production, with his typical quick banter and his usual roller-coaster pace in full effect, but it is also decidedly old-fashioned. Wide landscapes fill every corner of the screen with eye-popping detail, and the planets are carefully populated and distinctly alive. It isn't just an emulation of STAR WARS, but a singular recapturing of that very same magic, and it allows for a more physical environment to get lost in and discover.
There's a richness to this world, to this wonderful place of Jedi and Storm Troopers and Princesses and Heroes and Villains, that works almost exclusively on its own. You just want to jump into every intricacy and little moment, mainly because of its sincerity and comforting warmth. It is a jubilant illusion, full of familiar elements but operatic and passionate in its execution. As a STAR WARS fanatic, born and raised through these fantastical escapades, I felt like I was coming home.
And yet, this handcrafted approach to filmmaking feels so fully realized because of the story complimenting it. The Prequels, divisive as they are, came to life through digital advancements, but the tale of The Force Awakens needed a realm ingrained in the substantial. It ultimately rises above mere Nostalgia pandering because of its archaic stance in the world that's being explored.
The new main characters, played with humanity, life, and heart by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver, succeed not just because of their modernity, but because of their own unique paths in a gradually unraveling trilogy. Each actor feels like an essential piece of a larger puzzle, fully embodying their roles and searing their influence on the overall feel and connection of the Galaxy.
The screenplay, written by JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt, develops these characters not through basic traits but by actions and consequences. From the very beginning, a snow-ball effect is created, and the dashing excitement flourishes because of perfect comedic-timing and impeccable chemistry. I felt like I was watching the creation of brand-new iconic Heroes and Villains, and not just a "good enough" assortment of casting to keep things fresh.
In particular, their interactions with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and more are all beautifully played. It gets right into the core of legendary progression, showcasing a world where intensity soon morphs into rumors and Myths. It's fascinating to see a new cast, much like the next generation of fans, witness the original players in the flesh. Larger than life icons, dealing with the painful ramifications of the past, most of which are still unknown.
The past, and its influence on the present threat, is stunningly presented through Dan Mindel's exceptional eye. Shot in 35 mm (and a select sequence in 70), every location offers pure STAR WARS imagery through lavish colors and sublime composition, focusing on the deliberate spaces within trees, sand dunes, snow flakes, and primary colors to tell an extremely impressionistic story. In an effort to further the beauty of the Original Trilogy, it is obvious that Mindel and Abrams yearned for an even greater wealth of visual coherency through extensive research and staging through the basis of concept art.
The Force Awakens is, through and through, a technical masterwork, blending the old and the new through seamless technique and craft, but the ultimate triumph lies in a culmination of history and the basis of new Myths to be created. While the new characters may have seen all of our heroes as legends and stories to tell around the fire, the journey from Myth to actively participating in those adventures and finally starting their own unique beginnings is nothing less than staggering.