Last Saturday I saw my first film in IMAX and fittingly it was Star Wars and it was pretty damn brilliant. Even more surprising is that I had managed to avoid any and all spoilers for the last 3 weeks; allowing me to actually enjoy the story as it was intended.
Having said that, SPOILER ALERT…if you don’t want any clues as to what happens and want to enjoy the film without this knowledge then it’s probably best to go away and watch the film. Then come back and read this.
Here is the trailer…who hasn’t actually seen this yet? Anyway.
As I said in the pre-amble, I really enjoyed this film. It may not be as ground breaking as the first Star Wars instalment, A New Hope, but certainly reinvigorated the series for a whole new generation as well as bringing something new for the long time fans. That being said, this is not a perfect movie, something I will get onto later.
The easiest way to show you what this film did right in comparison to the Lucas’ prequel trilogy is direct comparison.
WHAT DO WE WANT FROM A STAR WARS FILM?
1)ENTERTAINING AND THRILLING ACTION SEQUENCES EG LIGHTSABRE DUELS, SPACE BATTLES, ETC. This is what the Force Awakens gives us with great aplumb. The prequels, however, ignored this and decided to fill the trilogy with trade embargo’s, senate voting and other political bullshit!
2) HAVE THE FORCE MAKE SENSE. The few Force Awakens characters in touch with the force, seem to live and work by the same consistent principles. They sense other force-ish people near by, they can build upon or lose there powers based upon their behaviour and composure in each instant. The prequels make me ask 2 questions: 1) What in the bloody Nora is a ”midichlorian” and why did they use that idea? 2) Why are all the sodding Jedi Masters not able to sense a Sith Lord using the force just down the road? I mean they talk to the guy on a regular basis AND he looks real shifty.
3) FULLY DEVELOPED AND GENUINE CHARACTERS. Force Awakens gets another gold star. All of the new cast additions are wonderful but Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) are especially great. They carry the film with their charming, relatable and endearing performances i.e. we care about their story. Adam Driver, playing Kylo Ren, was also a wonderful addition to the cast.
The prequels instead gave us, Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman, the worst on-screen couple in the history of cinema. Just look at this complete absence of chemistry! They make me sick!
Also they killed of the best thing about the prequels in one fell, terrible swoop, Darth Maul, in the first bloody film!
Oh yeh and Jar-Jar-f*****g-Binks!
THAT’S IT, I CAN’T HANDLE TALKING ABOUT THE PREQUELS ANYMORE!
There has been lots of conversation about Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, personally I think he was s a clever casting decision. His performance helps give Ren the huge potential for growth and development that it does. He has his own internal conflict making him interesting and real, he isn’t just bad because the script says so. As hilarious as his Light-sabre tantrums are they are also completely understandable as his training isn’t finished so can’t channel and control his raw power yet. It was also satisfying to finally see a man criticised for removing his helmet mid action sequence to have perfectly tousled hair and guy-liner.
I think it says something that BB-8, a droid, is potentially my favourite film character of the last year. He was funny, cute and became a part of the story, not just a robotic bystander. BB-8 is so good that I almost forgot about R2-D2 and C-3PO. Beyond this, BB-8 represents the huge success of both the practical and visual effects used in this film. They make it a truly awe-inspiring experience, especially in the IMAX. It was a beautiful, engrossing cinematic experience.
Obviously you can’t talk about Star Wars without the score. As expected it was top-notch. What was surprising was that the highlights came during the quieter, more personal scenes accompanied by softer and subtler music. You could hear the original Star Wars motifs being developed and evolved to create something new and exactly suited to accompany the scenes.
I have a couple of minor problems with the film. Firstly, Domnhall Gleeson’s face. Just look at it. It’s like they kept saying, ”You need to look more evil.. more…more…tighter…more wooden…less expression…YES THAT’S IT”. His expression doesn’t change the entire film.
The previous cast members were also the weakest links of the film, Harrison Ford had a few shaky moments but did also have his moments of brilliance as Han Solo. Carrie Fischer as General Leia was given practically nothing of substance to do and never really had a chance to stand out.
My final gripe, is Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, a supposedly infamous Storm Trooper commander. All she did in this film was get captured and then give Finn, Han and Chewie everything they want. I don’t know if Ill be able to take her abilities seriously in later films because of how easily she gave in, even in her roles increasing importance.
J.J.Abrams, should generally be applauded for this effort into the Star Wars canon, no little feat by anyone’s standards. His perverse love of excessive lens flares aside (see below), he whole-heartedly committed to being Star Wars and creating the same joy and wonder for a new generation. Yes, it has its’ flaws and it will be too similar/unoriginal for some (see PS below verdict) …and some people were never going to like it (or admit to liking it) full stop. But he took some big risks and generally they paid off to produce an exciting and captivating film.
Ignoring all of the above, he at least deserves credit for making the bold decision to enter a beloved franchise and …(SPOILER………………………..)
kill a beloved character for a real and heartfelt emotional impact. (Even if the best part of that is Chewie’s howling reaction).
Finally, in a world where quality cinema and fun, not-so serious movies tend to live in separate worlds, separated by politics, global issues and pretention. It was so, so good to be taken in and thrilled by a fun, heart-warming and, importantly, high-quality film. Something of a rare experience these days outside animation studios.
Midichlorians” No wonder Luke went into hiding, he accidentally kissed his sister!
PS/ HERE ARE ALL THE SIMILARITIES BETWEEN A NEW HOPE AND THE FORCE AWAKENS (this could be a long list) **SPOILERS**
- Important character stranded on a desert planet
- Shots of walking on desert planet with droid in tow, and many more borrowed scenes
- Discount Darth Vader (+ Guy liner)
- Droids have secret information
- A planet size weapon and an a weaponized planet (Note – showing me this side by side to be ironic doesn’t mean you get away with it)
- Death planet, weapon , bass, ship has an exploitable weakness so you can blow it
- Canteen scenes filled with weird looking aliens
- Luke/Leia/Han Trio = Rey/Poe/Finn
- An Old guy dies
- Everyone goes to rescue captured female lead, who doesn’t really need much help in the first place
- The Millennium falcon
- Ugly evil guy with little screen time is actually calling the shots