“The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in.”
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter taking over Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney announced the biggest movie franchise comeback since… well ever! Along with a new trilogy saga (episodes VII-IX), they announced a slew of new extended universe/spin-off films, including Rogue One (set between Episodes VI and VII), Han Solo and Boba Fett films. Whilst this announcement was warmly welcomed by fans of the original and *shudders* prequel series, many have criticised Disney for ‘milking’ the Star Wars name for all the wrong reasons. As a hard-core fan through and through, I think it’s an opportunity for Disney to share the magic of a film series that I love, and has been lost to younger generations.
Now, I hear you cry “what happened to George Lucas?!” – to which I will counter with three words that need no explanation – the prequel series. Sadly for George (and his ego), he has been stuck on the eternal Hollywood blacklist for his epic franchise-killing blunder that not only destroyed any chance of him every directing anything again, but also threatened to destroy the future of the Star Wars brand. SIDENOTE: It must be said, that in his effort to honour Lucas’ legacy, Abrams did briefly bring Lucas back to serve as a creative consultant during the film’s early production stages. However, after what was rumoured to be a very strained relationship, Lucas and his ego were politely excused from any further involvement.
THE NEW FACES OF STAR WARS
Set almost thirty years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, now the last of the Jedi) has vanished, and in his absence, The First Order have risen against a failing resistance army. The Force Awakens follows our new heroes Rey (Daisy Ridley, a scavenger from the desert planet Jakku), and Finn (John Boyega, a former First Order Stormtrooper) as they are thrust together on a mission to protect the galaxy from a rising evil in The First Order. In an effort to protect the location of Luke Skywalker from The Order (hidden within a small BB-8 android unit), our heroes join forces with X-Wing resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and General Leia (Carrie Fischer), in their quest to return balance and order to the galaxy.
The Force Awakens is the first live-action Star Wars film in over ten years, since the release of George Lucas’s Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) in 2005. Under the watchful eye of new director J. J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and a swanky new set of heroes, the world has once again come down with Star Wars fever.
In homage to the original trilogy, Abrams sought to cast relative unknowns as lead characters (as Lucas did back in the day when he hired Carrie Fischer, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford). He also shot in real locations, using scale models (instead of CGI) to make the film feel more ‘familiar’ to both new and old fans alike. In fact, the imagery and cinematography of this film are so reminiscent of the original trilogy that when we first come upon Jakku – so reminiscent of Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s home world of Tatooine – that you’d be forgiven for thinking that they’d deliberately reused the set to save a little on the $200 million budget. However, I think it’s this feeling of simplicity and familiarity that makes the film as relatable as it is.
Overall, there really isn’t much to be said about this film that hasn’t already been commented on or stripped down to the bare bones by other reviewers, so I’ll keep this short and sweet with my own personal pros and cons.
The music is fantastic. With a score by legendary Star Wars veteran composer John Williams, J. J. Abram’s quest of creating a film that felt both nostalgic and new is complete. Also, the echoes of Luke’s theme in Rey’s music are a wonderfully symbolic ‘handing over’ from one era to another.
John Boyega’s acting is a revelation. From drama to comedy, Boyega is the real deal. BB-8 is also a definite scene stealer (no matter how much he annoyed me).
Also, I must applaud J. J. Abrams in his extensive ‘side-stepping’ of anything relating to the disastrous prequel saga. From declaring the force to be mystical, rather than the much-ridiculed ‘tiny microscopic organisms’, to the omission of the Senate (the bane of so many hardcore fans), Abrams showed that he had learned from Lucas’ mistakes, setting the series on a new path.
I really, really liked Kylo Ren. He was menacing and more intimidating than the whole of The First Order put together! I can’t wait to see how his character will develop (for good or bad) in the upcoming films.
Finally, the film had just enough mystery and interest outside of the film itself, that I sometimes find myself trawling tirelessly across the internet looking for more answers and theories. Who is Rey? Why was Kylo Ren so emo? Why didn’t they make a ‘tamper-proof’ Death Star?
In terms of the dialogue, I thought that it sometimes felt a little clipped – which could possibly be down to the heavy editing that the film went through to cut over an hour’s worth of extra content.
Some of the acting was also, at times, a little shaky. From the monotonous meathead space pirates to the whiny, ineffectual and totally non-threatening General Hux, it all started to feel like Abrams had added a squad of his friends to the cast list, regardless of their ‘fit’. Even the remarkable Daisy Ridley had her own seesaw moments, occurring more often than not. Sadly for her, it just further highlighted her inexperience, but I remain hopeful that she will grow and mature with the role.
Furthermore, may I ask, why do we always have the same bad guys? The New Order was more like a carbon copy than a nostalgic throwback. There was nothing new there to grab my attention – same guys, with significantly bigger guns.
The long-awaited Cantina scene 2.0 was another real let-down. You call THAT a catchy tune? I don’t think so! A cool set, but a disappointingly bland music choice.
And, finally, I have to address the Han Solo issue. Poor Han felt like a parody of his earlier self, all cheesy grins and none of the ‘edge’ that made him such a fan favourite.
The latest instalment in the Star Wars series is the biggest film of this decade – and by a good few lightyears, too. The movie has already garnered an unbelievable $2 billion since its release in December (half of both the prequel and sequel sagas combined!). And four months after its release, The Force Awakens is still being shown in cinemas, confirming the durability of this galactic-sized franchise.