SPOILERS, SPOILERS EVERYWHERE
I don't care if you want to know if the film is good or not, I don't care if you don't care about Star Wars, but this post is full of spoilers, and I feel that you should watch it before making any judgements
The very first Star Wars, came out in 1977 - 17 years before I was even born - yet, I don't think any movie series has had a profound effect on my pop culture image as it has. Even watching the The Phantom Menace recently, it was hard to deny that a lot of what I do and say stems from what I have taken from these films.
So, here we are, 10 years since the end of the prequel trilogy, nearly forty since A New Hope was released, and Lucasfilm under the direction of its new owners Disney, have given The Force Awakens. There was no doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to see it as soon as possible (#midnightscreenings), without the influence of others telling me how to watch it, and in an effort to regain that ignorance that came with being 5 when I first watched Star Wars.
And boy, am I glad I did.
Since I wasn't a first generation Star Wars fan, I was never in extreme furor on the prequels. While my film tastes matured, I began to understand why the original trilogy was almost betrayed by Lucas with how he told Anakin's journey to the Dark Side. Even today, Attack of the Clones isn't a bad film if it stood on its own, its just not the film the fans deserved. When Disney announced there would be a new trilogy released, I was torn. I knew they couldn't do a bad job - they have heard for over a decade on how the prequels were the bane of geeks everywhere - that they wouldn't release a film without a script where every syllable had been relentlessly scruitinsed.
However, on the other, I wanted them to leave it be, I wanted to continue living in a world where my childhood isn't tarnished by something new, something over commercialised and, I dunno, metallic. Disney had brought Lucasfilm for Star Wars, and the ability to make money off one of the largest film franchises in history - but at what cost would they do it? I like the Marvel Cinematic Universe as much as the next guy, but I couldn't handle a movie landscape saturated by Star Wars. I was scared, and frightened, and holding on to the "Golden Days". What if it wasn't good, what if they couldn't convince me that it was time for a new Star Wars?
What if it was like the prequels? (Now that I'm old enough, I feel, to understand a poor film when I see it).
This Star Wars wasn't anything about returning to a galaxy far far away, it was about redeeming it.
Long story short, it has. My childhood has been mared by bad films based on things from my childhood (Eragon, anyone?), but this blows anything out of the water. This blows my favourite films out of the water. Previously my favourite film experience was Gravity in a Dolby-Atmos sound theatre, but this... ARGH!
I was walking to work this morning trying to figure out how to do this - No film has really ever preyed on my mind this much - but I don't know how to even begin.
I guess I'll start on what I really enjoyed about this film.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is awesome. She's the heroine that not only Star Wars deserves, but Hollywood in general. A female lead in Star Wars, and the one with the power (not only of the force) is a victory that should not go unnoticed. In the original trilogy there was always a love interest at the center of what happened - Luke entered the Rebellion solely on the fact he was initially attracted to the Princess, and then in the prequels, Anakin's downfall was brought around by his love for Padme. Rey, however, throws the trope out the window, and not once during the entire film is there a comment on her looks. Her costume is not playing into the "scantily-clad" realm of her predecessors either, where Leia in a slave dress, and Padme being objectified by an alien beast (watch the Arena scene in Episode II performing a miracle of fashion as it turns a top into a crop top) has been replaced by a simple outfit that doesn't change once. Even more awesome about this all is the fact she doesn't require rescuing, and although her friends go after her when she is captured by Ren (Adam Driver), she's more than capable of escaping herself, and no doubt would have made it off the base without them. And to top it all off, she does all this without acting like a man. Some heroines fall into the trap of being a woman in a mans role, but not Rey. I'll say it again - she's awesome.
Then we have Fin (John Boyega). Where Luke played the kid who wanted to make a name for himself in the galaxy in Episode IV, Fin is his counterpart, wanting to look like the freedom-fighter he wants to be, but not sure if he can. I feel like my flatmate put it perfectly as we left the cinema - he has the best chemistry of anyone. He masterfully played the comic relief right throughout the film, with any of the main characters (BB-8 incuded), and it didn't seem out of place at all. I want to say that Fin was perhaps much like how Jar Jar should have been, but he doesn't do it over the top, or play into stereotypes like the Gungan did, and instead is another hero worthy of Star Wars. Right before going to the screening, we watched Return of the Jedi, and a friend brought up the question we all knew was true - "Where were the women? Were there only white people in the universe?" I think this was what made the diverse nature of The Force Awakens that little more awesome in my eyes. Disney masterfully kept the relationship between the two of these main characters quiet.
Just writing all this down is making me very excited for my next viewing.
Thirdly, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the imperfect Dark Side antagonist of the film was phenomenal. In the other films, I always felt the bad guys were a little too perfect, and they were fully dedicated to the dark side. Even in Return of the Jedi the transition of Darth Vader back to the light was a very fast one, so I've always felt slightly underwhelmed at its portrayal. Ren however, the conflict is so very apparent, from when he was talking to the burnt remains of Darth Vaders helment, to the climatic scene on the bridge with Han Solo. His somewhat volcanic anger, his unstable lightsaber (which I'm totally for by the way), and his desire to please his master, Snoke (Andy Serkis), somewhat mimics Anakin's attempts at becoming the most powerful Jedi - frayed and almost manic. His backstory is also really cool, with parallels drawn between him, and the now non-canon Jacen Solo. Not to mention the new force powers?! I heard a lot of gasps in the theater when he stopped the blaster in the opening scene. Overall, I'm really excited to see just how manic and... evil they are willing to make him in the future films.
This character summary could not be complete without reference to Han Solo (Harrison Ford). I had felt in the lead up that both Luke and Leia wouldn't have a large part to play in this initial installment, therefore I felt that Han was just going to be there to pander for the fans. I was surprised, and very happy when we found out that Han would play shepherd, both literally and figuratively, bridging the gap between the old to the new, ferrying them across the galaxy, as well as providing a very fitting send off to the new characters into our imaginations. This culminated in a reveal that matches Episode V between him and Kylo Ren that will stand in history as one of the most memorable moments in film this generation.
There are so many more cool characters in this movie that I haven't mentioned - Po Dameron is Wedge Antillies with a more speaking part, BB-8 is a worthy R2-D2 replacement for the new generation, General Hux is the new Grand Moff Tarken.
What about the film as a whole? Visually, I thought it was the right amount of post-modern CGI from the Prequels mixed with the miniatures and puppets from the Originals. Not once did I exclaim about how off or out of place something looked - Oh, okay, I did once in the beginning about the classic JJ Abrams lens flare prevalent in all his films. There were a lot of really amazing shots that made me tear up a little when on Jakku in the beginning of the film, the speeder passing in front of the Star Destroyer as seen in the trailer being one of them.
However, the scene that stole it from me was the climatic scene on the bridge between Kylo Ren and Han Solo. If you watch closely, as Kylo Ren looks to be struggling with his decision to join the Sith, on either side the lighting is signifying both sides of the force; Red on his left, and Blue on his right. However, as soon as the Starkiller base completes the sucking of life out of a Sun, both sides turn to red and Ren murders his father in a very emotional scene (more than one person in the theater were bawling their eyes out). One part of me hated my English teacher for having me aware of these things, but on the other, it was definitely one of my favourite scenes of anything ever.
Story wise, the film is heavily based on A New Hope - A Dark-Side user is looking for something hidden in a droid on a sand based planet, but is thwarted by some local kids. Kids go to the Rebellion/Resistance, fast forward, blow up planet-destroying space station cause of a single point of failure, and rejoice - you get the gist. I've been pondering on it for a while; Is it a bad thing? the more I think about it, the more I get agitated by it, but in honesty I didn't really pick up on it while watching. It just felt familiar, which is what I feel JJ Abrams and Co. were planning to do with the initial film. There was just enough variation to make it interesting, but unlike the Prequels where although Lucas pandered to the fans, he took a far too drastic change that annoyed them, Abrams didn't want to shock the viewers just yet. He wanted them to get comfortable, know that in Disney's hands, our beloved Star Wars is safe. I hope what they know now is that we trust them enough, they should feel comfortable to stress the boundaries a bit, sort of bringing in the best of the two trilogies into a truly special Space Epic.
Long story short, Abrams and Disney have successfully created a movie that fans will love. It brings back to the Universe the things that made it great, while giving us enough new and exciting plot lines that will plague fans for another two years before the next is released. It's been less than 24 hours, but by gosh I cannot wait to see whats next in store.