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Disney | Out Now

OK so we don't review movies as a rule but hey... why not, it's Christmas and it's Star Wars...


BOOKS & DVD'S 2009-2014 

Desert locations, an ice planet, forest scenes, good versus evil, children separated from their parents, a space station not just the size of a moon but inside a planet (and christened with the original surname for the sagas Luke); a cloaked and masked bad guy with a wizened old boss, a cantina, secret plans in a droid, you could go on…


Indeed the mass of similarities between ‘The a Force Awakens’ and Episode IV (and lesser so the rest of the original trilogy) is not just limited to a host of echoes, ghosts and on screen re-emergences of faces from the past, rather  the plot itself is almost a hi-res scan, rather than a copy of where the movie series began.


There was a point in the film where you just knew where this was going to end - with that huge explosion; and you knew how the codicil was going to pan out at the top of those steps; but despite of all this and the endless lists of questions somehow Episode VII is still largely a joy to watch.


As someone who grew up on the original trilogy to the point where at one time I could pretty much recite any line of dialogue, the CGI-saturated prequels were almost completely implausibly horrible, and even when you attempt to banish them entirely from your mind you still have that one question: "Why". And that to a point is why ‘The Force Awakens’ cannot really lose; sure some fans will be disgruntled about anyone stepping on those original films, but really there’s such a vast improvement here you do breathe a sigh of relief, and even a times little gasps of delight. 


Here of course we have a film that I expect will have a rather different reaction from fans and obsessives than casuals, even if you hadn't seen ‘A New Hope’ before the storyline might even seem somewhat familiar - innocents thrown together to defeat a dark force, light versus dark and so forth. It’s a pretty eternal tale.


With time to digest what makes you somewhat disappointed is the Lack of effort that seems to have gone into the script. If you came with an open mind then you may well have sat there open-eyed loving every minute, expecting, I’m sure, to see references to the past, nods to the earlier films but not to actually get a virtual carbon copy of Episode IV .


Structurally ‘The Force Awakens’ is almost like someone has come in with the Lucas penned original and said “Hey let's just do this again, but you know that character can be a girl rather than a guy, that mask can be different, let's make those storm troopers look like a cross between the first and second trilogies, (I still think those original designs stood the test of time but I suppose another rehash sells more toys)”... and then half-heartedly added “Oh yeah put in some old faces, replicate scenes (maybe ordered a little differently) but you know what that's about it...” It works almost like an each way bet and comes out almost a half homage half rewrite.


While some critics will harp on a bout unresolved questions it's not really about that, Abrams has and probably always will be shit with scripts but great with ideas so you have to expect that. I mean his Star Trek re-workings got praise, I kind of liked them, but then again I had that ‘distance’ from Star Trek I never had with Star Wars! At the end of the day he only commits one huge sin in this film, but that would be spoiling it.  Let's face it this is, as Lucas said, a galactic Fairytale it doesn't all need explaining though by the end you can already see some of what is to come I'm sure.



All said and done the film somehow works and that may be simply because the original story did and here after it it's really just presented all over again. What I loved most of all was  The cinematography and the refreshing and sparing use of CGI, not to overwhelm as the prequels did,  but to enhance. There's some stunning long shots and interiors like the wrecked star destroyer during the opening minutes. The pace and the action are also perfectly weighted throughout.


The cast is another thing, initially I didn't take to Rey as she came across rather stiff and preppy for a kid scavenging and parentless on a desert planet doing it tough but she'd won me over by the end of the film and was perhaps most impressive of the new cast.


Finn on the other hand smacked of current day action hero syndrome and left us with a few questions like "If he'd been plucked from his family as a kid to be trained as a Stormtrooper where did he get all those very modern phrases from?" And "He looks about twenty-something, how on earth can this be his first mission? What do storm troopers do all those years - I mean there is an active resistance out there isn’t there?" As a main character he doesn't really grab you, and another thing why would you suit up as a storm trooper to perform sanitation duties?


Finn also loses every fight; it's all a bit confusing as he's constantly saved by Rey. To lay it on the line I'm just not sure what the character is trying to say unless it's that ordinary people can get involved in big stuff by accident, even if you start off on the wrong side of the tracks? As a redemption story it doesn't exactly work.


Perhaps most surprisingly disappointing though is Driver’s Kylo Ren who looks slightly less cool than Darth Maul and has less menace than Vader. At times he seems to be lost - drifting between Hayden Christensen like woodenness especially in his gait (there's no stomp of Vader) and constipation rather than internal conflict. It's odd he's obviously a talented actor but struggles especially in key mask-less scenes to convey anything much at all.


So as far as the supporting cast goes it's a mixed bag of good and Indifferent, with nothing really awful like we endured in episodes 1-3, though sometimes it's just odd –Captain Phasma, for example, seems completely superfluous to the plot, and Max Von Shadow’s character would have just needed a few words of explanation to round out his character and add a bit of mystery. General Hux on the other hand is just a little disappointing as an angrier Tarkin, and you almost cringe rather than quake when he's on screen though his big speech does somewhat redeem him before his presumed demise.


The most powerful emotions are conjured by the reappearance of Han and Chewie which almost had me in tears and at the end Skywalker in Hamill's best piece of acting ever. The emergence of Leia strangely doesn't have the same effect as the others, Fisher has no light to her here and seems to be going through the motions, but she's lifted in her scenes with Ford, her appearance almost sniffs of contractual size and weight. Others get cameos but it's so perfunctory only the fail full with hear their hearts beat faster.


Questions? There's so many - Why do X-Wings never evolve and Stormtroopers helmets change every few years (the First Order’s fit out costs must be incredible)? Why is Gollum now leading the First Order and why does he need such a big hologram? Why do droids like BB-8 not just speak if C3PO can communicate in so many languages, after all so many characters understand those beeps and whistles it seems like a lot of wasted education learning that second language...


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away... Again.



by Mark Rockpit




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