A ‘Star Wars’ Hater Reviews ‘The Force Awakens’
First and foremost, I should qualify the title of this review. I loved Star Wars as a kid. The movies were awesome and the toys were radical (that’s how we expressed our love of something in the 80s). I was allowed to stay up past my bedtime to watch The Empire Strikes Back, that was pretty cool. These days, however…not much of a fan. I was stoked to see the prequels when they came out, only to find that they were a heaped pile of speckled bullshit. The special editions were even worse. Cluttering up the screen with shonky CGI made it look downright awful and suggests that those behind had no idea what made a film look good or why the original films were so popular. Then they started trying in crap from the prequels, like redubbing voices and including that gormless tit Hayden Christensen in major scenes. Please, for the love of all things holy, release a remastered Blu-Ray of the theatrical cut.Those were the most damaging hits on the franchise, but everything else since has been salt in the wound. Piss-poor animated films, broken video games and overpriced, stupid merchandise like Mr Potato Heads and shaving kits have lead to a complete saturation of the garbage. It’s a constant reminder of what used to be great. Then there are the fans who constantly seek to explain it away or slip into complete denial about how shit it is instead of holding the companies they are sinking millions of dollars into to some standard. There’s a reason Disney paid $4billion to get the Star Wars license…because they can make any crap and people will buy it and then defend it. They don’t even have to advertise it. No, the prequels were not ‘fun’ and they didn’t have awesome light saber fights. They were bad films and if they weren’t shown under the Star Wars marquee they would’ve been laughed out of cinemas.
So that’s all said and done, how about this new fella? I was, with some trepidation, looking forward to seeing what was on offer because that massive git George Lucas wasn’t involved and he’s proved time and time again that he has no idea how to make a movie. Here are my spoiler-laden thoughts.Director: J.J. Abrams
Cast: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
Plot: Decades after the fall of the Intergalactic Empire, a militant group known as the First Order has come to the fore and are trying to exterminate the remaining Jedi. Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, has gone into hiding and now the Resistance, led by Leia Organa, and the First Order race to find him first.
Review: It’s pretty clear from watching this follow up to the original Star Wars trilogy that Disney had a mandate to invoke the first film as much as possible. I’m positive that the first draft was created by taking the script to A New Hope and changing the names. We begin with the Stormtroopers and a masked Sith Lord trying to find a droid holding important information, said droid winds up in the hands of a commoner trying to get by on a desert planet who coincidently is the new generation of Jedi, they meet a grizzled former warrior who gives them faith in the Force…right through to the final act this is a blow for blow rewrite. Right down to a planet destroyer final boss the shape of a planet with a tiny weak spot.This isn’t nearly as bad as it sounds, as tight studio control over the original film ensured that it adhered to a tried and true formula. Rather than turning a swashbuckling space adventure into a long-winded and confused story about trade federations and political machinations Abrams focuses on creating interesting new characters within the established setting. Stepping into the spotlight is Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger making a living digging through downed Empire spaceships, and John Boyega as Finn, a First Order Stormtrooper unwilling to partake in their vicious attacks and goes AWOL. Finn in particular is an interesting character as he’s one of the few in the series to blur the line between good and evil, whilst in the past everyone has been a nobel hero or a slavering villain. By the end of the movie the roles played by these two feel like a bait and switch, as the one expected to take up the mantle steps aside for the other.
Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo in the third major hero, stepping into the mentor role previously held by Sir Alec Guinness. It’s interesting to see his struggle with his new place in the universe while unable to completely escape from his past, and it’s a satisfactory character arc for the character. His prickly relationship with Leia (Fisher, also returning) makes for a good dynamic and it feels like they could have spent more time on this, but it makes way for the relationship with Solo and new villain Kylo Ren, which is worth exploring in its own right.The focus on these characters and their personal journeys rather than the wider scope of the galactic conflict is the best thing that this movie does in comparison to the shitty prequels. Abrams creates an emotional connection with his characters instead of using dull in-jokes and meaningless cameos to interest the audience. He also doesn’t hinge the movie on bizarre and downright confusing links between the characters, such as Darth Vader building C3PO (not to mention the genuine cut scenes revealing Darth Vader played with Greedo as a child, Anakin and Jango Fett were brothers, the Emperor is Anakin’s real father and Han being Chewbacca’s adopted son because the gene pool of this intergalactic story spanning several galaxies is an shallow as pool of spit).
Not that the movie is a melodrama or weepy character piece, there’s plenty of action throughout the movie. Abrams honed his skills on the Star Trek reboots and continues his good work with exciting laser dogfights featuring spiralling camera sweeps and imaginative set pieces. Likewise the ground action keeps the focus tight on the characters we’ve become invested with instead of littering the screen with hundreds of CGI Jedi (those rare, gifted individuals who live in balance with the universe who turn up en masse to wave around their glow sticks in the prequels). There are some genuine edge-of-the-seat moments. When we come to the final confrontation with Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren it’s reminiscent of the fights in Empire Strike Back and Return of the Jedi, where the characters are driven by their emotions and, sometimes, a complete rage rather than spend 40 minutes swinging around bouncing their swords together. Few characters walk away without scars in these fights.The most unexpected moment of the film comes with the unmasking of Kylo Ren. They’ve played against expectation with this character, giving him a human element that most enemies in the series lacked. At first it was surprising that he looked the way he did, but it ultimately works extremely well.
We’re looking forward to a continuation of this story, and the next step in these character’s journeys. Even some of the supporting cast, such as Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and Gwendoline Christie’s Capt. Phasma, feel like they’ve got more to over. This feels like a continuation of the story started in 1977 instead of a cash in on a name brand. Disney and Abram’s team have done good work, and given us a movie that isn’t as ground breaking as the original but is just as much fun.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN