Monday, 28 December 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Nice … 

28th December, 2015.

You know, it’s Christmas.

Or, at least, it’s BEEN Christmas.   I was only saying, this morning, how I felt the holiday period was over for another year.

Well … 

With the possible exception of New Year’s Day, maybe.

At ANY rate … ?

At ANY rate, courtesy of my sisters?

Courtesy of Anna, the older of my two sisters, she, I and our other sister, Ruth — Jude’s mum, in other words — had one last Christmas present to unwrap.

Tickets to see a movie.

Not just any old movie, either.

The one in the poster.   The one that’s made a billion in the fastest possible time.

Possibly the most heavily awaited film of the year.

And, yes … I’m thinking ‘Nice’ is the word … 


But let me tell you about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, if I can …

Set roughly thirty years after the destruction of the second Death Star — in Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi — the film sees Luke long since vanished: and the New Republic, with allies from the Resistance, trying to find him.

And a new enemy, the First Order — grown from the ashes of the Empire — ALSO seeking Luke, so they kill the last Jedi.

The film opens by showing us Resistance pilot, Poe Dameron — Oscar Isaac —meeting with Lor San Tekka — Max von Sydow, in a relatively minor role — to collect the last part of a map that will show where Luke is hiding.

Unfortunately?   This is when the planet — Jakku — is raided: by First Order storm troopers, led by Kylo Ren — Adam Driver — a Ren knight, and dark side force adept keen to prove himself.

One of those troopers is … 

Unsettled: seriously sickened by the slaughter that Ren insist the troopers do.

After the village is destroyed?

Poe is captured: and tortured by Ren.

Who finds that Dameron has hidden the map in a ’droid called BB8: and sent on its way.

The ’droid ends up in the company of Rey — Daisy Ridley — a scavenger in the desert regions of Jakku.

Where Rey ALSO meets Finn* — John Boyega† — the stormtrooper who was visibly sickened by what he’s been ordered to do in the the opening parts of the film.

Finn … ?   In order to ease his conscience, Finn has helped Poe escape from the Starkiller^ base where’s Ren had him captive.

And met Rey, after the TIE fighter he an Poe escaped in crashed on Jakku.

It’s not long after the pair meet that First Order forces attack the small desert village Rey and Finn are staying at.

Forcing them to flee.

In a junked out YT freighter that looks — to those of us who’ve followed this series for a while — will find very familiar … 

Once off planet, in the Millennium Falcon?   Rey and Finn’s escape is foiled.

When the ship is tractored onto a BIGGER freighter.

One captained by the Falcon’s original owner, Han Solo — Harrison Ford — and his co-pilot, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

They’d like the ship back.

Finn … ?   Wants to get away from the First Order: although he’ll settle for impressing Rey.

And Rey … ?

Wants to get BB8 to the nearest rebel base.   She thinks she can help in the search for Luke.

You can tell this is going to get interesting, can’t you … ?


Now … 

Nice … ?

‘Nice’ is possibly a bad choice of words.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a bloody good piece of work: arguably better than the original movie, and certainly better than the prequels.

It’s introduced us to new characters: in the shape of Rey, Finn and Ren — who the film reveals is Han and Leia’s son, Ben, long since turned to the Dark Side — and sketched out some interesting hints of backstories for the three.

It ALSO re-introduces us to Han and Leia — Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprising their roles — bringing us up to date with them in the process.

Up to date … 

And, in the case of Han … ?

Ending it, as he is killed by his own son.

That’s not all … 

You’ve seen some of the trailers, haven’t you … ?

You’ll have probably seen some of the footage of John Boyega’s Finn, wielding a lightsaber.

And would presumably assume, as I did, he gets trained by Luke, at some point.

He’s not the force user in this film: that’s Rey.

Rey’s ALSO the main focus and hero.

Oh, there’s a flaw or two to The Force Awakens.

We could WELL have seen more of Captain Phasma: Gwendoline Christie could well have had more screen time, there.

I felt it could well have concentrated more time on the search for Luke.

On the OTHER hand?

The few minutes at the end set things up perfectly: re-introducing us to the original film’s hero in a way that could easily tell more of Luke’s story, in the years since his last outing … in the next film.

And as things stand, there’s plenty in here to add too in later films.

The last scenes — of Rey returning Luke’s lightsaber to him — opens up one story line: that of passing on the proverbial torch from the old generation to the new.

And Supreme Leader Snokes, performed by Andy Serkis, makes for a truly intimidating Dark Lord.   He is a seriously intimidating menace, motivating the Order’s actions from behind the black screen that is the Starkiller base.

There’s possibly different ways to look at this film.


Possibly … 

But in summary … ?

In summary, how am I looking at Star Wars: The Force Awakens?

Do you remember seeing the ORIGINAL Star Wars, all those years ago?

From what I recall of the summer of 1977, science fiction was a rather un-respected genre: something seen as a thing for kids.

When considered at all.

Suddenly?   Suddenly, Star Wars came along.

And changed everything.

Science fiction became respectable.   A money spinner.

High art, even.

Especially when 2001: A Space Odyssey was re-released in the wake of Star Wars, telling us that this was a genre capable of telling many different forms of story.

Star Wars was, arguably, very simplistic space opera: with a focus on a simple tale of good versus evil.

But space opera that turned my generation, and the ones that followed, into people who wanted to see science-fiction, fantasy and horror.

And were happy to pay good money to see quality entries in the genres.

In THAT sense … ?   As I say, the original was revolutionary.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens … ?


But IS both a damn good film: with much more emotional depth to it than I’d’ve given credit for,   and references‡ — both to historical events, other movies AND other bits of sf — that will be a train spotters delight.

AND is a return to form for the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not the revolutionary the original film was.

But IS a good film: and a better-made film than the original.

It’s a great Star Wars film.

Go see it.


*      From the little I’ve seen, in the original two sets of trilogies, the Storm Troopers are clones: endless copies of Jango Fett, first introduced in Attack of the Clones.   From the one or two throwaway lines in The Force Awakens, the First Order storm troopers are something akin to the Egyptian Mamluks: slaves, taken from their families as children and reared to be soldiers for the empire.

†        I’d last seen the relatively unknown Boyega in Attack the Block: which I believe is well worth checking out.

‡        Give you an example, when we first see Daisy Ridley, as Rey, she’s wearing a face hugging mask: that had me — long term Dune fan that I am — thinking was a great representation of a Freman stilsuit.   At another point?   General Hux, (Domhall Gleeson) gives a speech to a massed army of storm troopers that put me in mind both of Saruman’s speech to his Orc army in The Two Towers, AND of Hitler addressing various Nazi rallies.

^        If I recall correctly, George Lucas used ‘Starkiller’ as Luke Skywalker’s original surname, in early drafts of the scripts for the original Star Wars movie: but changed it to the less aggressive sounding name, later in the writing process.   ‘Starkiller’ has cropped up in the various spin off media, ever since.


Stewart Bint said...

Entertaining and, in my view, totally accurate, review. Yes, I remember seeing the original film all those years ago, and as you say, Paul, in those days sci-fi was rather unrespected. The genre wouldn't be sol powerful today if it weren't for that original Star Wars film.

Stewart Bint said...

Entertaining and in my view, totally accurate review. Yes, I saw the original film all those years ago, and, as you say, Paul, sci-fi was somewhat unrespected in those days. The genre would not be as powerful as it is today without that original Star Wars film.

Nik Nak said...

Very true, Stewart, VERY true …