Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

It’s been several months now since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in cinemas, so, if you still haven’t seen the film,  DO NOT READ ON. There will be spoilers. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum, but I can’t avoid them altogether.

Let me preface this review with a simple fact – I am a Star Wars tragic. I love it. The movies, the television shows, the books, the action figures, everything. From where I am typing (on my bed – not good for the back, in case you were wondering), I can see the Force Awakens novelisation to be left. In front I can see the ‘Tarkin’ novel which I have just finished. Next to that, on top of my drawers, I can see numerous figurines, a completed Lego ‘Ghost’ spaceship, Star Wars money boxes, multiple Star Wars T-shirts. I love it.

So, as you can imagine, and, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you will have noticed from my previous blog posts, that having a new Star Wars movie in cinemas absolutely blows my mind. I was too young to see A New Hope at the cinema, but I recall vividly seeing it at the drive-in, and bringing it home to watch on VHS from the video rental store. These memories are etched into my consciousness and are the types of memories that make me the person I am today.

The Original Trilogy (A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi) are staples of my movie watching diet. I’m talking numerous viewings each and every year. The Prequel Trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith) not so much. I am not a prequel hater, but they do have their flaws. That’s not the say that the original trilogy is perfect – it’s not. It is just when comparing the two, the prequel trilogy is missing the warmth, adventure and sense of humour present in the original trilogy.

It’s this that I think The Force Awakens captures well. The new characters, particularly Rey and Finn, are engaging and accessible. There were several laugh out loud moments, usually resulting from something Finn says or does. Rey is a great lead character, and it is great to see a female take the lead in the Star Wars universe.

The plot revolves around the search for Luke Skywalker, who has gone into hiding after a tragedy involving his jedi academy. The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, have located the final piece of the map that they believe will lead them to Luke’s hiding place. They send Poe Damaron, the best pilot in the galaxy, to retrieve it from Jakku. While attempting this, he is captured, but his droid, BB8, escapes with the map. He meets up with Finn and Rey and the galaxy spanning adventure starts from there.

Some have critcised the movie as being too derivative of A New Hope, and I can see their point. The plot lends heavily from this film, but I believe does enough to make it stand on its own merits. It also gives enough information to intrigue us into speculation about episode eight – who is Snoke and where did he come from? How did Kylo Ren fall from the light? Was Kylo Ren responsible for the tragedy at the jedi academy? How does Rey fit into the Skywalker family, if at all? How will Chewie and Leia cope with their loss? Has the Republic fallen? So many questions…

Favourite things – BB8 has so much personality. He easily takes up the role of R2D2 from the other films. Finn – great character. Had plenty of opportunity to shine and John Boyega grab every one with both hands. The ships – X-wings, TIE fighters, Star Detroyers – they’re all there, slightly redesigned, but awesome as always. The Falcon is back!

Not so good – the death. I knew it was likely, but it still hit like a tonne of bricks when it happened. The final scene dragged on too long. They could have done the unveiling and left it there. Instead, they filmed an extended scene of two static people really not doing anything. Chewie getting nothing from Leia after the death – no hug, no glance, no nothing. Instead, Leia comforts a girl she has never met before. Interestingly, JJ Abrams has admitted that, with hindsight, this was a mistake. I agree.

Overall, I loved it. It reminded me of my days as a youngling, watching the original trilogy with my mates. The sense of awe and adventure was back.

8 out of 10 for me. A solid return to form for the Star Wars franchise.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens teaser trailer has been released:

Star Wars Episdoe VII The Force Awakens teaser trailer

Wow. I loved it. It looked and felt awesome. Particularly that shot of the X-Wings flying low over the lake. That was incredible.
A quick break down of the teaser. And that is all it is, a teaser. No plot or character details revealed, just images and situations. And a sense of urgency.

The teaser starts in the desert, presumably of Tattoonie. A male, John Bogoya, stands into shot. He is dressed as a storm trooper, but doesn’t have a helmet on. He is sweating and looks concerned about something. A round droid rolls across the screen in a different location. Next, Daisy Ridley jumps on a speeder transport of some description and motors off into the distance. The newly designed Storm Troopers are next, and it looks like they are about to drop from a troop transport into battle. Then we see Oscar Issac piloting an X-Wing, which cuts to three X-Wings flying low over a lake, kicking up water spray as they go. In the background, we can see mountains. Next is a forest, possibly with snow. A dark, cloaked figure walks through, then ignites a red lightsaber which has a red hilt. Then the Falcon is flying through blue sky, and two Tie Fighters fly into shot. Star Wars: The Force Awakens comes up and it’s over.

Some thoughts:
The sense of urgency comes through strong. The voice over, speaking about the force awakening, both dark side and light, is very dark and foreboding.

The red lightsaber with the hilt is concerning – I imagine any particularly wristy (is that even a word?) actions would run a very strong risk of lopping our own hand off at the wrist.

Pros: The effects look great. They do look different to Episodes I to III though – grittier, dirtier, more used. It really suited the little bits they have shown us. The new Storm Trooper design looks like a natural progression from Clone Trooper to original trilogy trooper, to the new trooper. The voiceover. Whoever it was that spoke it – rumours of Andy Serakis or Benedict Cumberbatch abound, but we really don’t know.

Cons: That hilt really looks a little silly. The droid was okay. Everything else was pretty awesome.

I really liked what I saw. It was energetic, and authentic to the Star Wars universe of the original trilogy. I’ve never rated a trailer before, let alone a teaser. But I’d be happy to give it 9/10.

Disney’s Ongoing Star Wars Plans

Busy day for Star Wars news!

Firstly, J.J. Abrams posts a video in relation to a charity (Unicef, I think). But the thing that appears to have caught the eyes of most people is the puppet … yes, you heard right, a puppet …. character that wanders into the video. J.J. appears to be using this video not only to make an appeal on behalf of the charity he is supporting, but also to show the world that CGI will not be relied upon as heavily as it was in the prequels.

I think it is a good move on J.J.s part – he can distance himself from the prequel trilogy which, it seems, a lot of people dislike. I most be honest, I love all the Star Wars movies. Naturally I enjoy some more than others. But there seems to be a real undercurrent of dislike for the prequels. So, distancing himself from them may help bring some of the more disgruntled fans back to the franchise. It also gives a stronger connection to the original trilogy, which relied heavily on puppets and animatronics. 

The other news of the day is that Disney have announced the creative team that will bring us the first Star Wars stand alone movie, due to hit cinemas on 16 December 2016. Director Gareth Edwards (of the most recent Godzilla fame, plus the under seen Monsters) and screenwriter Gary Whitta have been pegged to bring us our first taste of non-episodic (is that even a word?) Star Wars on the big screen. No information was provided of who or what the film will be about was released.

Most seem to think that it will be a Boba Fett movie. I think it will be too. I just hope Fett is a big enough name to draw the crowds and keep Disney making further stand alone installments. What I’d love to see on the big screen at some point would be an Old Republic/Sith Empire era movie – the image of hundreds of Jedi charging into battle against a massive army of Sith warrior would be awesome to behold!!

Stay tuned for further information as it comes to hand.