I liked The Force Awakens, and why wouldn’t I? I enjoyed A New Hope and this is the exact same film. I mean, exactly the same. Think I’m exaggerating? Well, lets have a look at the plot.
An evil empire (the New Order which is exactly the same as the Empire) has taken over the galaxy. A rebel with important plans to defeat the Empire is captured by a guy in an ominous cape who serves an evil overlord; he then sends the plan away in a droid that crashes on a desert planet. In a very dubious plot point, the droid then falls into the hands of our force sensitive main character (what a coincidence!), who meets a cool badass old man who takes her on an adventure.
The biggest differences between this and A New Hope are that BB8 is much cuter than R2 D2, girls can get in on the light-saber action too, black people exist and the masked villain doesn’t wait for a bad prequel series to become a whiny brat. It’s brain off, cool fight scenes on and I enjoyed the action sequences and there wasn’t one minute of its run time when I wasn’t engaged. Unlike the train wreck that was The Phantom Menace, JJ Abrams did not over rely on special effects to make his film engaging, and the Star Wars world looks and feels quite natural.
It was a very, very safe film and with its near identical plot points and its crowd pleasing throwbacks, it was designed to be an easy hit with old fans. Considering the mess of some of the other Star Wars films, this isn’t a bad thing, but it also means that although I’d happily see it again, I’d have no reason to watch this instead of A New Hope.
But let’s look at some of the old and new features again and see how it all holds up. Warning! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
There are a lot of references and in jokes and old characters returning in this film. We revisit a lot of the old surroundings, and their charm isn’t ruined by the CGI.
THE MILLENNIUM FALCON
Again, by another eyebrow inducing ‘happenstance’, our lead characters end up finding the Millennium Falcon, flying it and bumping into Han Solo. What’s improved here is the flight mechanics. In the original, you just flashed between scenes of the ship flying through space and Han and Luke in the cock pit. It looked effortless and you didn’t get a feel for how much work it took to pilot it.
But here, you get a real sense of how much skill it takes to fly this thing as Rey stretches from the pilot to the co-pilot panel to fly it, and Finn operates the weaponry. You can see the effect momentum has on the ship as it is thrown upwards as it turns, leaving its movements feeling more fluid and realistic. The chase scene with the Falcon is as thrilling as you’d expect from the director of the Star Trek reboot.
Leia was an unusually strong female for a 70s science fiction, especially in a genre that had not always had progressive roles for women (save for cyberpunk and feminist science fiction). Unfortunately, Leia was a fairly sidelined character in this film and though a General, she did little in the way of leading battles and most of her drive and dialogue centred on her relationship with her wayward son and Hans Solo. It was a shame, because I really wanted to see Leia come into her own and kick ass as a leader and diplomat, but she was more soft and understated in this film, as opposed to the balsy spitfire she was in the original trilogy. I’m hoping that she will have a more prominent role in later films, but considering Hollywood’s refusal to cast women over 40 as anything other than mothers to more major characters, my hopes aren’t dashed but they’re not high…
Han Solo was easily the best thing about this film. Even in his 70s, Harrison Ford still gives Han Solo the same charisma and energy he gave him in the 1977 film and played the role of Obi Wan to these young kids. But unfortunately… we all know how things go for the mentor figure.
I was not happy at how much of an unceremonious end he received. Han Solo was always a survivor, a pragmatist, and so falling for such an obvious ploy seemed out of character… especially considering what he told Finn just moments before. I mean, come on. Why did he step on that conveniently ominous bridge? Nothing good happens when you mix beloved science fiction heroes with bridges. Also, why would you put such an unsafe bridge like that in your giant death weapon? That’s an accident bound to happen!
Yay! Star Wars finally has a black character in major, relatable role… who then gets critically injured, beaten up and knocked out of the climax protecting a white lady he’s known for five minutes… um. Progress?
Star Wars has a somewhat mixed track record when it comes to females. On the one hand, each trilogy always has one tough, interesting female lead (Padme, Leia). However, she’s usually the only female in the Universe and always plays second banana to the men in the action scenes. Also, I still haven’t forgiven Revenge Of The Sith for reducing Padme to a walking womb amongst its many, many sins.
So it’s great to have a female lead who gets in on the light-saber action. She’s tougher in her first film than Luke was in his, and is decent enough, though not the most engaging character ever created. However, Luke was less interesting than Han Solo, Obi Wan, Darth Vader, and Leia in A New Hope, so she’ll almost certainly get some development in later films.
For now though, she’s tough, capable, a good pilot and a believable action lead. As this film will definitely be setting some new sales records, its great to see that one of the most successful action adventure movies will have a female as its lead.
THE NEW THE VILLAINS
EVIL OVERLORD #951
This is exactly the same film, and again we have a more sceptical general, a caped badass and an evil overlord who makes Lord Voldemort seem positively subtle. It makes me wonder… who the hell would look at this guy and follow him? He SCREAMS EVIL DICTATOR!
I mean, Ed Milliband’s campaign was seriously damaged because he looked funny eating a sandwich, and yet we are expected to believe that people willingly followed THIS GUY? I can buy a ball shaped robot moving swiftly along sand, I can buy magical force and everyone bringing a light saber to a gun fight, but looking at the guy who looks like one of the monsters from 300 and thinking ‘yep, that’s who I see as our future leader?’ Too far, Star Wars. Too far.
Which brings me onto Darth Emo- I mean Cryloads Ren- Kylo Ren. He is the new Darth Vader and he looks fricking cool in his cape… until he takes his helmet off; then he starts whining about parental issues and throwing massive temper tantrums in which he destroys God knows how much valuable equipement. Our villain everyone!
Look at this guy. He looks like a young Severus Snape who’s taken up work experience modelling for Abercrombe and Finch. How does he keep his hair looking that tousled when wearing a helmet all day?
And his parental issues. Yee Gods. When will TV stop blaming all villainous action on parental issues? It makes no sense why Kylo Ren would follow Darth Vader. I mean- he’s the son of two war heroes, nephew of the chosen one, and if he wanted power he is guaranteed a high position purely on virtue of being Princess Leia’s son. He wants to be strong like Darth Vader? Darth Vader and the Empire lost. Darth Vader showed remorse for his actions at the end of Return of the Jedi. His desire to follow Darth Vader makes no sense!
Honestly, I swear half of his issues could be solved if Han and Leia sat him down and made him watch Revenge of the Sith and asked him ‘do you really want to be that guy?’ But then again I’ve seen his twitter feed, so maybe it would make his obsession worse.
But then again, I didn’t just like the Original for its action, but also I liked laughing at its goofy elements- so while I was laughing at the Stormtrooper shooting in A New Hope, I’ll be laughing at Kylo Ren’s spoilt temper tantrums in The Force Awakens.
OVERALL RATING: 3 dramatic ‘NOOOOOOs’ from Kylo Ren’s dear old Grandpappy / 5