(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)
I tried not to be seduced. Burned from the prequels, I thought I had learned my lesson. When it was announced that Disney were making a new Star Wars trilogy I didn`t allow myself to get excited, as it could only lead to disappointment.
Disney seduced me, they played me like a fiddle with an expert marketing and promotional campaign that started with the first teaser trailer. I kept saying to myself don`t give in, however, with each piece of information released my inner child took over more and more.
I was like a 6 year all over again at the midnight showing in my local cinema, full of nervous laughter mixed with a little fear. Will this movie meet expectations? Not quite is the answer, but not for the want of trying.
The Force Awakens opens in the usual manner (minus the 20th Century Fox fanfare)we are informed in the crawl that Luke Skywalker is missing and that the First Order, formed from the Galactic Empire is searching the galaxy for him. General Leia Organa of the Resistance, is also searching for her twin brother has sent her best pilot to follow a lead from an old friend.....
What follows is now my favourite opening of all 7 Star wars movies and the tone is set for an excellent opening 20 minutes that really grabs the viewer straight into the action. In fact the first 40 minutes are hugely enjoyable and intriguing as the backgrounds of the 4 key new characters is teased.Stormtrooper FN 2817 is a conflicted brainwashed conscript horrified by his first battle with the First Order, Kylo Ren is a First Order commander strong in the force, Rey is a scavenger, struggling to make ends meet on the battle scarred desert planet of Jakku and Poe Dameron is the dashing pilot on a secret mission with the resistance.
The early characterisation of these new players is simple and effective, carrying forward the movie at a fast yet even pace. Too many coincidences for my liking lead to these characters uniting and joining forces, especially when our new potential/reluctant heroes, Finn (FN 1817) and Rey cross paths with the legendary Han Solo and Chewbacca. This is after conveniently finding the Millennium Falcon and evading the First Order in what is a thrilling dog fight.
Han Solo`s presence brings humour and emotion to the Force Awakens, however, it is also one of the main weaknesses of the movie. Seeing Harrison Ford struggle to run down corridors etc. is unsettling and he is more effective in the quieter moments while acting as the wise old mentor to Rey, whom he bonds with in a very believable fashion while piloting/repairing the Falcon.
The Force awakens provides little in exposition as to the greater story playing out in the Star Wars universe. We learn some details about Luke and his efforts to restore the Jedi order, however, details on the formation of the First Order and the subsequent resistance are sorely lacking. Obviously we will learn more in future movies, I craved more information in this movie and would have gladly accepted a longer movie for it.
The plot is very basic,Unoriginal is an understatement as we are treated to a poor 3rd act with major elements that we have seen twice in the original trilogy. The main talking point of this movie is contained in this 3rd act and I suspect will genuinely shock the audience, at this point in time I still have mixed feelings around this scene as perhaps Abrams was trying a little too hard to create his shock/ twist moment ala Empire Strikes Back.in fact it is a complete re-hash of episode IV and Return of the Jedi.
The true heart of this movie is with Rey and Finn. There is great chemistry between the 2 actors and it is pleasing that we learn titbits of the characters background that will be fully explored in the remaining episodes in the trilogy. Kylo Ren is an intriguing character and It was an interesting choice to reveal major facts regarding his history early on in the movie, in order to set up what was to come later on. He is a conflicted character that is skilled in the force but is struggling to commit fully to the darkside, his story arc certainly has lots of potential. Poe Dameron is very one dimensional and I left wanting to see more of his character developed. BB-8, the new droid addition, had the potential to irritate but thankfully he was more endearing than annoying although it was a fine line at moments.
Abrams has achieved a lot with the Force Awakens, this is far superior to the prequels in every shape and form, he has re-created the look and feel of the original Star Wars trilogy and has now effectively passed on the torch to a new generation. The movie does suffer from the necessity to achieve this and is very similar to a film in another franchise (Star Trek: Generations) in this manner.
Overall, this a competent blockbuster that should have enough to satisfy older Star Wars fans and will certainly entertain the mainstream audience. How this holds up in future years and subsequent viewings I have my doubts. The fact that this is basically a re-hash of previous movies in the franchise is more than a little worrying, this is the second JJ Abrams movie in a row (after Star Trek:Into Darkness) that this has occurred, leaving question marks as to how this new trilogy will pan out. That as they say, is a question for another day.
Disney, you worked wonders in re-igniting (dare I say re-awakened) my passion for Star Wars, I left entertained but disappointed, however, I am yearning for Episode 8 already, that says it all, doesn’t It?