And so finally here we all are.
It’s been over a 30 year wait to see what the Ewok after-party would bring in the wake of Return Of The Jedi. The saga finally moving forward again and not backwards.
And more than anything, the prevailing feeling I felt while watching the seventh installment of one of the greatest movie sagas to drape itself across my corneas, was an overwhelming sense of relief that there’s now a Star Wars movie that’s been released since 1999 that I no longer have to make excuses for.
You see I’ve been here before. Phantom Menace fever was huge. Bigger than the buzz we’ve been experiencing over last few months, and the realization that it wasn’t the cinematic second coming we all hoped for wasn’t actually instantaneous either. Oh no, it was a slow, painful proccess that took a couple of weeks to unfold. So expectations this time were understandably guarded.
The key phrase here for what The Force Awakens has actually achieved here is “damage control”. And it’s now obvious why “safe choice” J.J. Abrams was hired as he has a firm, steady, directorial hand that is geared to the Lucas/Spielberg style and isn’t going to rock the boat (which leaves Episode VIII director Rian Johnson free to go freakin’ nuts). Having re-established such Star Wars institutions as real lived in sets, natural line readings and genuine humour, the actual storyline is somewhat a greatest hits of A New Hope reconfigured to tell a sort-of newish story, carefully measured to get everyone back up to speed with the fact that Disney hopes to put out a Star Wars related film every year for eight years. Y’see? Damage control.
Well, it works. The secret? The new cast.
All three of the main cast, Daisy Johnson, Adam Driver and John Boyega are absolutely fantastic as the guys who will move this story onwards, molding character traits from the films to create a fleshed out, interesting group. Driver in particular as the hugely conflicted villain Kylo Renn, could possibly be the most interesting character the franchise has ever seen, combining Darth Vader’s presence with Luke Skywalker’s vunnerablility. Johnson has Luke’s journey with Leia’s determination and Boyega (effortlessly grabbing laughs here,
there and everywhere) has the time of his life as essentially a blue collar Han Solo with R2 D2’s comic timing.
Ah yes, Han Solo. It’s ironic that the grizzled return of Harrison Ford’s OTHER famous alter-ego serves him far better than Indy 4 ever did. Ford is an utter joy to behold, the best he’s been in years, engaging in astro-banter with everyone and everything like it’s going out of fashion. Oddly well serviced here too is Chewbacca. It may horrify you to know that I actually never really liked Chewie that much but here, he comes into his own here with even a killer running joke concerning his rarely used bowcaster. Familiar ships also get the blood pumping (a dogfight/chase between the Millennium Falcon and some TIE fighters brings warm fuzzy nostalgia in dizzying waves) and some small insights into the inner workings of Stormtrooper culture are facinating.
Other new and classic characters are somewhat underserved or underused (wot, no Phasma?) but this is the first of a new trilogy, so we won’t pick at that too much but I did want to punch C-3PO. Hard. He’s more annoying here in a limited role than he was for the whole of Attack Of The Clones, and that’s saying something. BB-8, however, takes the comedy droid role with aplomb. Adorable little bugger. For a movie that does so much right, I was disapointed that John Williams didn’t turn out any new themes that really stuck. Say what you will about the prequels, at least he was busting out new themes all over the place, but there’s nothing here that can even come close to “Duel Of The Fates”.
In closing, ultimately the best thing about The Force Awakens is that it’s out. It’s done what it needed to do and brought some much needed respectabilitu back to the fanchise. All the new and old players are set and established and new foundations have been cemented. The fact that it’s a really good film is a massive weight off the mind, but where the series is now free to go from here thanks to the fact that Star Wars is legitimately hot again, is a actual Godsend.
The Force has awakened. You will feel it.