By Last Caress.
PLEASE DON’T READ IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. SPOILERS ABOUND.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens looks and “feels” more like a Star Wars pic than any pic since 1983’s Return of the Jedi, without a shadow of a doubt. More than the prequel trilogy, the animated Clone Wars movie or series, the Lego films, the videogame tie-ins, anything. The way each scene “wipes” into the next, the matte backdrops (or at least, they looked as though they were matte backdrops), the decision to keep as much of the action as possible in-camera – all perfect. The characters themselves, in both look and intent, spot on. I mean, just look at all the characters introduced since RotJ: Plo Koon, anyone? Kit Fisto? Jar Jar? They all felt like those rather irritating “Expanded Universe” types, not proper “movie canon”. But Maz Kanata and her assorted Takodana denizens fitted right in for me, as did the folk occupying the Tattooine-like Jakku (I appreciate that many of the “new” character and place names are taken from the expanded universe but it’s all about picking/choosing which ones to bring to life, and how that’s done). And I loved the Rathtars, the Lovecraftian monstrosities being hauled by Han and Chewie at the point of their reintroduction into the proceedings. And I didn’t mind the numerous nods and winks back to the old movies at all, I felt these touches helped ground us, the audience, back in the Star Wars universe.
Oh, and I really liked Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Jarred a little when he removed his mask only to resemble Marilyn Manson aged 13¾, but he did well and he’ll grow into the role, assuming the character’s not dead already.
Too many contrivances, and too many unanswered questions, some of which I appreciate come as a result of this being only part of a larger tale but many of which come, I suspect, as a result of Star Wars: The Force Awakens not working within its own logic. Rey and Finn had to skedaddle, pronto, off of Jakku, and just happened to steal The Millennium Falcon? And they then just happened to get swallowed up by a Baleen freighter manned by none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca, who themselves had apparently been seeking The Millennium Falcon for some time? How big is this bloody far, far away galaxy anyway? I’d find that sequence of coincidences unlikely even if the universe was confined entirely to my street in “wonderful” Pitsea.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens didn’t leave me very sure about the recent political history of its universe, or how any of that worked. So, The First Order is a relatively new uprising, headed by this Snoke guy, is that right? Why are they rising up from the lovely Republic, which I assumed regained control from the horrible old Empire after RotJ? They don’t look like a recent insurgence, they look exactly like the old Empire. Which I suppose makes a lot of sense if one considers the destruction of the second Death Star and the deaths of the Emperor and Darth Vader to be a mere lost battle rather than a lost war. I mean, the infrastructure of the Empire would still have been vast, wouldn’t it? Someone else would’ve just become “Emperor” instead, right? Okay then. So why is this “First Order” being sold as a new development? What’s been the state of play for the last three decades? Did Leia and the Republic at some stage lose all of the ground they’d won in defeating the Empire the first time? In which case, why’s she still in power? Who are the “resistance” and who are the “Republic”? I’m sure there are answers to all of this, but the reasons for the maintenance of the same old status quo ‘twixt the Sleek-and-Mighty-Empire Bad Guys and the Rag-Tag-Rebellion Good Guys seem disconcertingly vague at this point, and I don’t feel that that’s going to be addressed except in some wafty Expanded Universe graphic novel or fan-fic or somesuch. And did I miss something or did the end come for that Starkiller planet a bit… well, quickly? One second, raging dogfights! Next… Explosion! It didn’t have the same resonance as Luke hitting that two-metre target – using only the force, no less – and blowing the first Death Star way back when.
The characters about whom we’re supposed to care the most; Rey, Finn, Poe etc.: Still woefully flat, low on charm or charisma. Now, I’ve stuck this in amongst what I consider to be the “bad” points of the movie since, in and of itself, characterless characters are always an inherently bad thing in a story. BUT, clunky dialogue and weakly drawn characters have been a by-product of George Lucas’ penmanship from the very beginning, so for all I know JJ Abrams’ decision to underdevelop his characters was a conscious one, made in order to keep those characters consistent with the Star Wars universe as it already existed. So, in that light, I guess it could almost be applauded to make Finn and co so one-note. Almost. I’m not going to, though. Daisy Ridley mostly just looked pained-yet-determined, John Boyega mostly just looked flustered. Quick, something’s happening! Daisy, look pained-yet-determined! John, look flustered! I mean, I shouldn’t complain on this matter too hard; Rey and Finn are Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega compared to the f*cking breadsticks with whom we were expected to empathize from the prequel trilogy, but still.
Why was Gwendoline Christie cast as Captain Phasma? Never took her helmet off, there was no mileage given to the decision to cast her or to make the character a female whatsoever. I don’t get it.
Also: I quite liked BB8, more than I thought I was going to given how heavily they’ve leant on him in promoting the movie. Still, they managed to overplay him all the same. Was he that vital? No.
I feel that this new batch of movies came too late for the original trilogy cast members. The only character with any true relevance to the plot they’ve elected to pursue was/is that of Luke Skywalker. The rest of them didn’t need to be in it, and shouldn’t have been. I don’t want to see them like that. Han Solo? More like Ken Barlow. And Leia looked like the first truly bad special effect in the movie, until I realised that that was just her face. Harrison Ford lobbied hard many years ago to have Han Solo killed off at some point in Return of the Jedi, to add weight to the eventual Rebel victory, so’s it wouldn’t come without great personal sacrifice for our protagonists (and, by proxy, for the audience), as wars always do, of course. He finally got his wish but, at the character’s age and at this point of his brief re-entry into the melee, it didn’t carry anywhere near as much weight as it might’ve once upon a time, even accounting for the father/son dynamic, which felt like naught but a shoehorned stab at lending the situation some fast and unearned gravitas (and, as with Ben’s demise in Star Wars, you could see it coming a mile off). I didn’t feel shocked or saddened at the loss of arguably the best character of the entire franchise, I just felt a degree of relief; partly for Harrison Ford but mostly for myself, that I wouldn’t now be subjected to watching him stagger about in another movie in 2017, and then possibly another in 2019, by which point Harrison would be 108 years old I believe. And as for C-3PO: Why is this f*cking character still in this tale? Worse than Jar Jar and far more pointless, always has been. They made decent use of him in Return of the Jedi with the Ewoks, and that’s it. And he’s been in all seven movies.
Ultimately though, did I like it? Well, I did like it, yes. For all my griping I think that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was better than a Star Wars pic had any right to be at this stage. Considerably better. The spectacle from the original trilogy was there, as was the familiarity I expected from the prequel trilogy (but didn’t get). That said, the plot holes and contrivances may have been okay for a kiddie to skim over (fwiw my son, almost twelve, bloody LOVED it, from start to finish) but they were a little too insurmountable for me to be able to truly lose myself in the picture, and I suspect that this movie won’t be as beloved by its child audience in decades to come as the original trilogy is by its child audience as they’ve grown up. And nothing in Star Wars: The Force Awakens allayed my concerns that Disney are ultimately going to strangle this particular golden goose. I very much hope I’m wrong on that score. We shall see.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in cinemas now.
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