I recently watched The Force Awakens and I was largely very pleased with what I saw. It’s always a big gamble when it is decided that a long standing franchise will produce new films a while after the conclusion of a previous series, which in my view was something that Peter Jackson failed at with The Hobbit trilogy which was essentially a lengthy ejaculation of mawkish midget-wankery. I was rather apprehensive about how this one would pan out, having reminded myself of the scenes at the end of episode VI, when everyone is dancing all night long at that ewok rave in the woods. Behaving as if all evil has subsided for ever, and ‘order restored to the force’ … for ever.
More like for 32 years then. So all of the space invading, the rainbow of laser swords, the strange desert creatures, the cute robot pets and the fleets of charismatic and deadly ships capable of travelling at the speed of light, all return pretty quickly. The evil now lies with the (perhaps weakly named) First Order, led by a Sith Lord named Kylo Ren who owns a lightsaber that looks different to any lightsaber that has ever appeared in Star Wars. Welcome to the new age.
I was delighted to see Oscar Isaac in this. I always enjoy watching him closely, whoever he plays because he is essentially the coolest man on the planet. His role as ‘the best pilot in the resistance’ is well cast and I was routing for the guy from the off. I thought he died when he crashed, but then I was very pleased to see he survived and will no doubt be exhibiting his extreme skill at flying X-Wings in a spell bindingly flamboyant fashion for the remainder of the films.
The rest of the casting was also very much on point. I can’t comment on them all but I’ll pick out a few ; Dohmnall Gleeson was barely recognisable in his stone cold portrayal of General Hux, but that is very much a good thing, considering that he is playing an extremely evil bastard. The diversity between this character’s traits, in comparison to the character he played with Isaac in Ex Machina (a remarkable film) is testament to how decent an actor he is.
I noticed Gary Neville starred in this also, and I hope Valencia aren’t questioning his commitment to the club as their new manager (okay I’m being facetious, but did anyone else notice him in this film, playing some resistance fighter?). Gwendoline Christie was another interesting cast- as a very in-fashion actress. Although she had very few lines and her character despite being meant to be evil, didn’t really show it. I was interested to see Serkis was included in the cast, but I only realised this after I had seen the film. I was a bit disillusioned with his character; The Supreme Leader if I’m honest. He seems to have emerged completely out of nowhere (I accept this may be accounted for in due course) and his appearance is very uninspiring, in spite of how colossal it appeared as a hologram. He looks like an exact cross between the hideous orc leader at Minas Tirith, and Lord Voldermort. They could have done better when they created his appearance, I’m sure many will agree.
Needless to say, Harrison Ford was excellent. One of the moments where I really felt emotional was when Han got back into the Falcon and he was by the turret. As he was smiling at being reunited with the love of his life, we really were reintroduced to that same devilish smile that we saw in the original trilogy what seems like a lifetime ago, and it was something extremely beautiful. On the subject of Ford, I hope others noticed his extremely vulgar line that he said later in the film. I was shocked when he said it because of its overtly filthy connotations. Then he repeated it! It’s not like it even had any real purpose for the film. It could so easily have been rephrased as well, to mean exactly the same thing, and certainly no eye lids would have been batted. It was extremely peculiar…
Another thing that was tremendously conspicuous was the difference in Fisher’s accent. She has got a lot more American, her voice is entirely different now. But that’s not really a criticism, it doesn’t really matter at all, and I’m perhaps getting a bit fastidious here but hearing it did trip me up a bit.
I have some question marks about the character of Kylo Ren. It was extremely laughable how he was unable to defeat Rey and Finn in the forest, having undergone the training he had from presumably- the best Jedi in the Galaxy. He should have creamed them into the snow effortlessly with his knowledge of the force (God Abrams where has the damn realism gone?). And another thing, I really hope he isn’t simply of the ‘good guy turns bad then turns good again’ school because we’ve already seen that with Vader and worn that black, robotic, semi-asthmatic, t-shirt. They also basically did a repeat of destroying the Death Star, destroying a planet about five times its size, almost effortlessly. As soon as they set out to destroy it, you know it is going to happen. Did they have to include this, again?
Repeats aren’t good enough, of course. The storyline HAS to be something completely different this time round. The galaxy cannot just recycle itself over and over again pointlessly until it becomes like some kind of inter galactic Midsomer Murders that nobody watches. But of course I won’t be making any assumptions at this stage. I feel like they have deliberately concealed a lot of extremely important information from us at this point, which will answer a lot of the burning questions about what the hell is actually going on with everything.
In typical Star Wars fashion the dialogue was astronomically cheesy from start to finish. “Oh my God look at how much courage that ordinary guy is displaying!” “Oh no we are in a potentially life threatening situation but I am going to pretend that I’m relaxed about it and make some kind of vacuous joke.” “I’ll rub your face son, right before I die because I love ya.”- those kinds of sentiments. But again we make allowances for that. The whole idea of the Force and the Dark Side itself is damn cheesy if you think about it. Every time I heard a line that made me cringe, I turned to a person who I had gone to the cinema with, to register it, and by the end of it I just about got whiplash. But on the whole the film was incredibly made and I was captivated throughout.
The new droid was extremely likeable, the weapons, the effects, the planets, the ships, the weird bread, they all carried a nuanced aestheticism to them which I was extremely captivated by. Everything slid into place very nicely and really set the tone for the new films, which have a lot to prove if this coming trilogy is to become admired by the galaxy’s true Star Wars fans, and for the gamble to pay off.