Merry Christmas one and all! I hope that you’re all having a restful, peaceful and happy holiday.
A lot of you will probably already have seen the new STAR WARS movie, or will be planning to do the same over the Christmas holidays. More than any other movie I can remember, THE FORCE AWAKENS has generated tremendous pre-release interest. That hasn’t all been good: the disappointment that some fans felt with the prequel trilogy has made many supporters apprehensive of the direction in which a new series might go…
Well, JJ Abrams has done a good job here, and any anxieties are misplaced. THE FORCE AWAKENS is a solid advancement of the STAR WARS mythology; both a good film and a good STAR WARS film. I will make clear that I’m a casual STAR WARS fan rather than a fervent supporter, but that said I enjoyed THE FORCE AWAKENS and I think that most viewers will feel the same way. Here on in: there will be spoilers…. You’ve been warned!
As with George Lucas’ original NEW HOPE trilogy, the plot of FORCE is simple. Despite the ending of that series, the Rebels didn’t really win the war: they shattered the Empire, but 30 years later the Galactic Republic is still rife with turmoil. From the ashes of conflict has arisen the First Order (basically, the Empire v 2), and both the Republic and First Order are searching for the location of Luke Skywalker. The Last Jedi, Skywalker, has disappeared – gone into hiding as a result of an off-screen disaster involving his students rebelling against him. On the planet Jakku, a scavenger (Rey, played by Daisy Ridley) becomes entwined with a traitorous Stormtrooper (Finn, John Boyega), and together they eventually discover that they have the intelligence that everyone is looking for.
THE FORCE AWAKENS gets lots of things right. The tone and feel of the film is exactly on point: the sense of adventure that runs through the NEW HOPE trilogy is definitely here. The characters all feel like extensions of the NEW HOPE universe too. The themes of the movie also echo many of the originals; family, sacrifice and duty, for example. But the film is also sufficiently accessible for non-STAR WARS fans to enjoy it. This is certainly not a movie that requires extensive knowledge of the earlier trilogies, but if you are a fan of the earlier movies (in particular the NEW HOPE trilogy) they are several little nods to reward the committed fan (I noticed the trash compacter joke, the chess table on the Millennium Falcon and the Kessel Run, but there were probably many others).
The cinematography is also pretty awesome. As you’d expect from a Disney movie of this scale, the effects are excellent, but slow still shots like image of the Imperial Destroyer crashed on Jakku are really incredible.
Is FORCE AWAKENS perfect? I had some minor quibbles. FORCE AWAKENS feels very much like a reboot in some ways, or perhaps a bridging movie: the old cast (except for Han Solo) doesn’t feature much (despite all of the hype concerning the return of Luke Hamill to the universe, Skywalker features only in the last minute or so). FORCE AWAKENS is a passing of the baton between generations. (In fact, this literally happens, albeit in reverse, at the end of the film!)
I also felt that Finn – the Stormtrooper with a heart – turned a little to quickly and definitively from an elite First Order shock trooper to a rebel sympathiser. Granted, we’re only introduced to him at the point of his defection, and the idea itself is a pretty interesting one, but I felt that this could’ve been slower and more nuanced. Once Finn decides he is a not-Stormtrooper, he seems to embrace his humanity and personality immediately. It would’ve been interesting to see what made him a Stormtrooper, and how his training effects him as a character (rather than provision of information to further the plot). But as I say, these are minor quibbles. The important thing is STAR WARS is back, and THE FORCE AWAKENS is a great addition to the series.