When I first heard that Disney had bought Lucasfilm, I cringed. I had a vision of Mickey Mouse running aaround with a lightsaber and Minnie Mouse with those Princess Leia ear buns. Then they announced that from 2015 onwards they planned to launch a new Star Wars movie every year. This peaked my interest. I was still worried that they would “kiddyfy” or dumb down the new films for a younger generation, but I was more hopeful. Then it was announced that J.J.Abrams would be the director of the first movie and I knew they meant business. Abrams did a really great job of bringing the Star Trek franchise into the 21st Century and as such the new movies that he directed had something for both the old and the new. However, I still think that he did a poor job of translating the warp core and engine room designs into the modern era – you could tell it was a brewery.
So, it was with a mixed set of feelings that I approached my first viewing of the movie. I say first, because I have seen it three times now and each time I find something different. When I sat down, the cinema was packed out. This was the 2D showing and as far as I could see there was not a Jedi robe in site. In fact I noticed that most of the people sitting in the Cinema seemed to be only a few years younger than me. There were a few teenagers dotted here and there, but most of the crowd was thirty plus years of age. This surprised me. However, I patiently waited throughout the trailers and obligatory adverts.
The cinema suddenly darkened and after a quick viewing of the BBFC certification, the film started. Instantly, I was thrown back to my first viewing of the Phantom Menace, and I became nervous. The title crawl, explaining the current state of the Star Wars universe scrolled down the screen and set the scene in a concise and matter of fact manner. Then the scene shifted to the planet of Jakku and my worries fell away.
It soon became clear that this was Star Wars. Proper Star Wars with models and explosions and real locations and animatronic puppets. Yes, the characters were different. Po Dameron is a fighter pilot, the best that the resistance has to offer. He is confident, always smiling and willing to look past the fact that Finn is a stormtrooper. He even gives Finn his name, using word play based upon his “FN” serial number. He has obvious skills, an almost complete lack of fear and is one of the most influential but underused characters in the film.
Next we move to Rey. Rey is like a harder and more fearless female version of Luke Skywalker. Her fighting skills are already honed by years of having to struggle for everything in an unforgiving environment and society. She had grown up with the hope that the parents that had abandoned her would one day return, and lived with that hope until she was forced to change her viewpoint later in the movie. She is strong in the Force. Very strong. However, it is not until she discovers this ability that she truly starts to test her limits.
Then there is Finn, the ex-stormtrooper. He is skittish and nervous but walks with a confidence that belies the fear he holds deep inside. The fear that the First Order will one day reclaim him. That fear only acts as a counterpoint to his courage in the face of danger and his willingness to risk his life for his friends. He is not the most complex of characters, but without him the movie wouldn’t be the same.
These new characters are fighting for the survival of their way of life and the freedom to live without tyranny. Sounds like a rehash of the original trilogy and in many ways it is. However, that does not matter. It sells the movie for me, because new fans will not recognise these references and old fans will merely smile at the familiar feel of a galaxy that we thought we had lost along with the prequels. There is genuine wonder in this new movie and so much fun and fast paced action that it is easy to look past its bad points – but it wouldn’t be a fair review if we didn’t.
The bad points? Only three points irked me:
1)Han dies without us ever really getting a chance to get to know him again. In addition, it is so predictable that even if I hadn’t known about this plot point in advance, I would still not have been surprised. What shocked me more was the way he died. It was completely pointless. He achieved nothing by sacrificing himself. He just made a Wookie mad and Rey sad. I say mad, but not enraged. Chewbacca should have been completely inconsolable and uncontrollable. Instead his rage was focused and completely un-wookie. Maybe he has spent too many years around humans.
2)We see the beams from Star Killer Base destroy the planets and not the sun as written in the novelization. What’s the point of calling a machine Star Killer if it doesn’t destroy stars? Okay, maybe it has to destroy a star to power the beams, but that’s not obvious enough. Or is it? Anyway, my point stands.
3)R2D2 miraculously wakes up just in time to provide the rest of the map leading to the location of the planet where Luke Skywalker is hiding. Yes I know that JJ has provided an explanation for this, but it is too convenient.
There are of course many other points both good and bad that have been picked up and flogged to death by other reviewers, but having seen the film so many times now I could forgive most of them. It really is a film that stands watching several times.
If you have not already seen it then go. If you saw it but you were a little puzzled by its pace and plot, see it again. If you haven’t seen it, then you probably spoiled the whole movie by reading this review – but see it anyway – and don’t complain about the spoilers. You were warned.