So I sat down with my overpriced coke and popcorn and my mind briefly wandered back to the time I had taken my seat with a similarly huge level of excitement, around a decade ago. On that occasion I had left the cinema with a tinge of disappointment after watching ‘The Phantom Menace’. I quickly left that memory in the past, where it belongs and instead thought back to happier times watching the original movies in the local half smoke filled Odean. I remembered how those films sparked my imagination like nothing else back then, leading to a life long fascination with the Star Wars universe.
I had ignored all spoilers and plot on the new film and by the time the customary “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” wording popped up on screen, I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. From there on in, I was subjected to what can only be described as the most intense Star Wars sensory bombardment for the next two and a bit hours. It just felt right and it was clear that Abrams completely gets what Star Wars is all about.
I thought that the new characters were just fantastic and meeting the likes of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren felt just like it did when we were first introduced to Leia, Luke & Vader in A New Hope. There was more depth to these characters though (and that’s not meant to take anything away from the great characters of the past), which reflected how things have changed within our society since the 1970’s. Rey wasn’t the damsel in distress, but was instead a strong female, who was more than capable of being the hero in her own right. Kylo Ren is a conflicted character, far removed from the (at least initially) fully dark, Darth Vader. He finds himself trying to live up to the image of the great past villain of the piece, whilst being unable to maintain the same single minded devotion to the cause. He is certainly a more complex character; as are most of the new cast we are introduced to in this 7th episode of the Saga.
Visually the entire film is just a masterpiece, with some incredible backdrops, from grounded star destroyers to fallen AT ATs and everything is beautifully filmed. CGI is used (as it should be) to complement the great physical effects and film sets and the result is a very real and solid feeling film. Everything has a weight and a believability that was sadly lacking for much of Episodes 1, 2 & 3 and this takes us back to the battle of Hoth, the original Death Star run and the battle of Endor from the original movies. THIS is how to bring Star Wars into the digital age and it’s great that Abrams has not ignored the past in directing this latest Episode, released 38 years after Episode 4 hit the screens.
So after reading all of that, is this film as perfect as it sounds above? No, it’s not and despite its brilliance there’s no denying that this is essentially “A New Hope” with different characters. If that’s all it was however, then that would have been a disappointment. Thankfully it is not however and the film is far deeper than that, with some of the most complex and involving characters the series has yet seen. It’s a film that leaves you desperate to see it again, the moment you leave the theatre. It’s a film that leaves you standing around discussing it with your friends/family for ages afterwards, excited for where this latest trilogy may now lead. As someone who has watched the original trilogy literally 100’s of times and ranks at least the first 2 of those films as 2 of his favourite films of all time, I sit here now considering that this film may actually be better than those two classic films. I need to see it a few more times before I can really form that opinion, but it’s certainly up there and at the very least, this is the 3rd best film in the series and is potentially the best.