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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review
"Chewie, we're home!" - Han Solo

 



Well, I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it once again because it’s never been a truer, more heartfelt sentiment.

There’s never been a better time, in all my fifty five years, to be a geek.

Think about it. The Marvel movie universe is being played out on our multiplex screens, DC comics rule primetime TV three evenings a week – and there’s a new Star Wars epic dominating cinemas, breaking all box office records.

So here it is. The film I’ve waited 32 years to see.

Yes, I know we had the prequel trilogy and I’m not dismissing them by any means – they all have their cool moments, but essentially they were the build-up to the part of the story we already knew and loved – the original trilogy. It was just a matter of seeing how Vader became the biggest badass in the galaxy and how he killed the mother of his children. We knew the result, it was seeing the journey.

Now, finally, we get to see what happened AFTER Return of the Jedi and catch up with the original characters three decades after the collapse of the Empire and the destruction of the Death Star. It’s always been rumoured that the original cast were contracted to appear decades later in the final trilogy. I remember that from the seventies. Whether or not it’s actually true, I can’t say – but seeing Han Solo swaggering, fast talking and in trouble once again, with Chewie ever faithful by his side kind of made me realise that moments like this are exactly why I got into being such a huge movie geek in the first place.

In essence, this follows the pattern of the original Star Wars at first glance. But simultaneously, it’s very different. It’s a quest. Our heroes, both veteran and new embarking on a new adventure with echoes of what has gone before.

It’s not a dull re-tread, it’s not a dreaded reboot, it’s a return to a familiar universe that is both comfortable AND fresh. As a mild spoiler, I’ll sum up the bare plot in three sentences:

There’s a droid that contains vital information. The good guys have it, but need to unlock the full data. The bad guys want it.

Okay, so that’s essentially what kicks off the action, but for me, the Star Wars films aren’t all about action, shooting blasters, waving lightsabers and flying spaceships – one of the many things that set them apart is the way they stop for a beat just to take in the majesty and beauty of the surroundings. These are what I refer to as the beauty shots. They stay in the memory and ground the fantasy of the story in some kind of reality. For example, the one shot of Star Wars I have loved since I saw it on its original release is the shot of Luke on the farm standing there, watching the twin suns set. My all time favourite is the scene of the Millennium Falcon approaching the Cloud City at sunset in The Empire Strikes Back. In The Force Awakens, I felt exactly the same when we saw Rae sitting in a shaded area in the desert, and the camera pulls back to reveal she’s sitting in the shadow of one of the feet of a fallen, destroyed AT-AT. It’s exactly the kind of shot that brings a greater richness and texture to a fictional universe. (I had thought that a quick shot of a Star Destroyer buried nose first in the desert sand would be the beauty shot – but the AT-At legitimately blew me away and made me realise that these kind of moments were sadly missing from all three prequels.)

I can’t imagine a Star Wars film without a John Williams score. I had the original two LP set back in the seventies and to me, his Star Wars score epitomise truly great film music. I’ve collected a great deal more of his music since, and have been inspired to explore other composers like Hans Zimmer, Danny Elfman, Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith. I play John Williams CDs regularly when I’m writing (and actually when I’m driving) and I’m happy to report that his score for The Force Awakens doesn’t disappoint in any way. It’s majestic, soaring and magnificent. It’s been playing on the system in the study since my Amazon delivery. As I heard it for the first time on Thursday at the multiplex, it struck me that the theme for Rae reminded me a lot of his work on the Harry Potter films – and it fits. It’s perfect.

In fact, without delving into spoilers, and there’s a zone for that, there’s no other word to describe this latest entry in the franchise. It’s perfect. It’s everything that I, as a die hard fan since the first film, wanted. It’s one of two films I’ve seen twice on the same day this year. Once in 2D and once in 3D. (For those of you with enquiring minds – my opinion, go with 2D. The only shot that stood out exceptionally in 3D was of a Star Destroyer seemingly coming out of the screen.)

J.J.Abrams, I salute you. You brought new life to a beloved franchise. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

That’s it as far as those of you who have yet to experience the epic goes. We’re heading in to major spoilerage in The Spoiler Zone, so please look away, turn to another page or go book a ticket to see the film.

 

So here we go….. countdown begins now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

 

 

YOU ARE NOW IN THE SPOILER ZONE – IF YOU’RE READING THIS AND HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM, IT’S NOT MY FAULT AND I ACCEPT NO RESPONSIBILITY.

HERE WE GO…….

 

The more I think about it, the more original Star Wars-like it is.

BB-8 is the cute little droid with the information that everybody needs in order to find the missing Luke Skywalker. Stranded on a desert planet, BB-8 is discovered by Rae, she finds herself on a quest that brings her to the attention of the bad guys, just like Luke before her.

Much as Ben Kenobi was a surprising death in Star Wars, so is Han Solo in this one. And actually, it ties in with a pattern of the first film in each of the trilogies having a surprising main character death. Qui-Gon in The Phantom Menace, anyone?

ANOTHER Death Star? Hell no. The Death Star was the size of a small moon, remember? This is an entire planet – with a machine that can store the power of a distant sun, harness it, aim it and destroy entire planets. Nowhere is safe. You don’t have to wait for this mo’fo to get in range. It’s the Death Star on steroids. Tell me – was that actually Coruscant we saw atomised? If so, does that mean that the Galactic Senate is now obliterated? Is there nobody but a handful of rebels to take on the New Order?

The New Order – did anybody get the same chills as I did, seeing their massed ranks. Wasn’t that reminiscent of the old footage of the Nazi rallies of the late thirties? Chills, man. Chills.

I had avoided seeing too many of the toys and this is the first time I’ve EVER gone to a Star Wars film without having read the novelisation of the film first, so non spoilers were at an all time high. I didn’t buy any merchandise beforehand in case, Kylo-Ren ended up being the Jar Jar for a new generation. I didn’t see THAT coming – Han’s son? In my mind, I had imagined he was Luke gone rogue.

His costume was very much Darth Vader lite – but then when you think about it, he IS Vader’s grandson. He’s very much following in Grandad’s footsteps, even to throwing the exact same tantrums that Anakin did in Clones and Sith, thus tying the whole saga together cohesively.

Han’s death was kind of a shock. I’ve known that Harrison Ford had wanted to kill the character off back in the original trilogy, which is why Han was frozen in carbonite at the end of Empire, so if Ford didn’t sign a contract, the character would have been left there. But still – to be murdered by his own son? Jeez, that’s dark. But then again, Luke contributed heavily to HIS father’s death in Jedi.

The warmth and depth of the relationship between Leia and Solo is right there on screen. He drives her nuts, they might not be able to live together, but they belong together. But is there more to Solo than we know? When Vader tortured him in Empire, his pain was felt across the galaxy by Luke, who went to the rescue. When Kylo-Ren runs him through with the Sith broadsword, Leia feels it and winces. Is the Force in Han?

What’s the story with C3PO’s red arm?

How does C3PO instantly know BB-8 by name without being introduced? We’re told that BB-8 is one of a kind. C3PO always introduces himself “C3PO, human cyborg relations”. He didn’t. They knew each other.

I’m convinced that Rae is Luke’s daughter. Come on – she instinctively has the Force and can fly ANYTHING, just like her Grandfather. Question is, who’s her mother?

Mark Hamill actually had more to do with the teaser trailer with his narration. Here, he just turns around and looks at Rae, who reaches out to him, returning his lightsaber. Has he been communing with? Force ghosts of Yoda or Qui Gon? His father????????

Max Von Sydow played “an old ally” – but who the hell was he?

Back to the toys – I had seen and was intrigued by the Captain Phasma figure. I was tempted to buy one, liking the chromed Stormtrooper appearance. Who knew she’d be basically a peripheral figure in the story? Actually, who knew she’d be female? One of many swerves thrown to us by the trailers (along with the extent of Luke’s involvement in the film). Another of course was the crafty editing to make us think this was Finn, the questioning ex Stormtrooper’s story. He (and we) may THINK he has the Force to begin with, but as soon as he gets a lightsabre, his first instinct is to clumsily impale somebody with it. No finesse. When Rae handles the weapon of the Jedi – she’s instinctively graceful. (I swear – Luke’s daughter…..)

Hands down, it’s the film of the year – so there goes any mystery as to what’ll be heading the annual list I’ll publish in January.


Copyright © 2010 - 2015 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

 

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