I’ve never considered myself ‘invested’ in the Star Wars franchise. I can accept that the first three (episodes IV-VI) are good films as much as I can accept that the second three (episodes I-III) are, for the most part, CGI-laden pieces of tripe designed to cash in on a much beloved franchise with low-quality acting (or at least writing).
With that in mind I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from Episode VII: The Force Awakens. There’s no doubt Disney were aware that another bad film would destroy a beloved franchise, and with that in mind they set out with a clear picture of what not to do, but did they actually make a good picture?
The short answer is yes, but I can’t help thinking that the simple fact that The Force Awakens isn’t shit and the palpable relief from obsessive fans that followed due to that fact gives the film a far higher rating than it deserves.
The performances are far above Episodes I-III, and the new characters are interesting too. The old style of humour also makes a return, even if Chewbacca pretty much becomes a moaning punch line.
Many of the plot devices, though, are rehashed in a not-so-subtle attempt to tie this next block of films to the original three and continue to distance the franchise from the more recent trilogy. I can’t have been the only one to notice them, although I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers.
There’s a droid that contains vital information, forced to separate from its owner when they’re besieged, just like R2-D2 in the original, and this droid is then recovered by a young person who is without their parents, living on what is pretty much a wasteland planet. There’s a giant space station planet built to destroy other planets, there’s patricide, there’s also a villain who wears a mask and sounds like he’s talking through a vocoder (although at least this one doesn’t have asthma) and reports to a similarly mysterious higher power. Then there are a bucket load of recurring characters from the original trilogy, including the always enjoyable Han Solo (who hasn’t changed a bit, except for in the face), the rather more weary Leia and the ever-annoying C-3PO. No Jar-Jar anywhere.
None of these plot devices are used in a direct copy and paste fashion, but if I could notice them and I’m not a fanatic then surely others out there must have seen the same thing. Perhaps they could argue with me over the minor details, but that would speak far more about their pedantry than my own. I’m not saying that any of these things are done poorly, because they’re not, but they’re worth noting. The fresh faces and new settings might disguise them from some, but I think you’re smarter than that.
Speaking of MY pedantry, there were at least two moments where I found myself really frustrated by the lack of logic.
First, given everything that happened on the Death Star and how far we can assume technology has come in this sci-fi universe, SURELY someone would have thought “Hey, maybe we should install some security cameras in this place this time around?” during construction. That way, when some of your enemies are running around inside, you can just get the message to the control room – “Guys, can you check the monitors and let me know where this prick is?” They see them on the monitor through the cameras, let you know, and bam, you can capture/kill them WITH EASE. Who the fuck designed this thing?
Second, we’re supposed to believe that this particular villain is so strong with the force that he can sense someone landing on the same planet/space station that he’s on, but he can’t sense that exact same person when they’re a mere twenty metres behind him? Come on.
There were other things that frustrated me, and questions I’d like to ask with hands on hips and a smarmy expression on my face, but I’m hoping they’ll be answered in the second and third movies. The physics of BB-8’s movement were also perplexing but i’ll let it slide.
Minor pacing problems aren’t too much of an issue, although you can’t help feeling that the film took ages explaining some parts and rushed through others. The last five minutes of this movie could easily have been done away with and used just as, if not more effectively at the start of the next film.
Despite my pedantry, The Force Awakens isn’t just a good Star Wars movie, it’s a comparably good movie to much of what has come from other popular brands like Marvel. The acting is better – although Carrie Fisher is somewhat stagnant – the overt reliance on CGI has really been dialled down, and the story isn’t a bad one despite the familiarity with the one that took place a couple of decades ago. It’s set up well for the second film, but my biggest hope is that it’s brave enough to tread a new path instead of relying so heavily on the past. 7/10