Star Wars: The Force Awakens
It has been more than a decade since the last Star Wars movie was in cinemas. One of those prequels which many fans felt was bantha poodoo. I certainly was not enthralled by the trilogy but after binge watching them last month I felt they were being judged a bit too harshly. In fact, my favourite of all seven films (so far) has been Revenge of the Sith. It was the first Star Wars movie to explore some dark places (no pun intended here) and garner a PG-13 rating in the US. Watching all previous six films together presents a colourful tapestry of the Skywalker family legacy. Does this latest instalment weave itself seamlessly in to the hearts of a new generation?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983). The Emperor was destroyed by Darth Vader (who was born Anakin Skywalker), father of Luke (Mark Hamill) and Leia (Carrie Fisher), who sacrificed himself to save his son. We learn in The Force Awakens once the Empire was defeated Luke goes off to further his Jedi ways while Leia ends up with Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Of course, remnants of the Empire still exist in the form of the First Order, who again set their sights on Luke and the new Republic.
The movie begins on the desert planet Jakku where a Resistance pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is in possession of a map which supposedly leads to the location of Luke, who has disappeared. Poe gets captured by First Order leader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) but not before sending the map off with a droid named BB-8, whose mission it is to get the map back in the hands of the Resistance. Inevitably, BB-8 winds up meeting a local named Rey (Daisy Ridley), who yearns to be among the stars.
Poe eventually escapes from the First Order with the help of a disillusioned Stormtrooper FN-2187 (or Finn), played by John Boyega, and crash on Jakku. Believing Poe to have died in the crash, Finn sets off to the nearest town where he meets up with Rey and BB-8. Again, they are attacked by the First Order yet manage to escape off the planet.
While in space, they run into Han Solo and discover the map is incomplete, which leads them to ask for help from cantina owner Maz Kanata (a CGI character played by Lupita Nyong’o). Meanwhile, the First Order fires up its Starkiller base and destroys several Republic planets before laying siege to the cantina and capturing Rey. She is taken to the Starkiller base where the First Order is planning to destroy the Resistance headquarters. A plan is devised to destroy the base and rescue Rey before returning to the search for Luke Skywalker.
The movie is certainly entertaining and in many ways an homage to the original trilogy. However, this nostalgia keeps the movie feeling less original and more familiar for fans of the series. Star Wars: A New Hope features many of the same plot devices as The Force Awakens: a droid on a mission with secret plans; a planet destroying base with easily exploited weaknesses; and a restless desert dweller who discovers their connection to the force. If these were minor plot points then it could be overlooked, but these are major parts of both movies.
Director JJ Abrams does not quite inject this film with the same flair as he did with his Star Trek movies, which is odd given he has admitted to being a fan of the former and criticised for making Trek more like Wars. Yet The Force Awakens is undoubtedly a Star Wars movie through and through. It is not JJ Abrams presents Star Wars, rather the film is a continuation of the themes first explored nearly 40 years ago.
Certainly, there are some twists and moments of genuine enjoyment when the battles take place. Even better, the film sets up some interesting possibilities for where the next two films will take us. This is what is best about this film: it is new. In the prequels, we knew it was the story about how Anakin became Darth Vader. Now, we have a new generation of characters and personalities going on a new journey. Sure, we know the good guys are going to win but we do not know much else about what lies ahead – and this is a good thing.
This movie is a continuation of a family saga which has been told over the past 40 years. The battles are exciting and look fantastic, and the new characters are a joy to watch as they go against a familiar enemy. Yet many of the plot points are a little too familiar for fans of the original trilogy, which keeps this film feeling nostalgic rather than reigniting the series for the next generation. Still, this is a Star Wars movie and it is very entertaining. For the first time in decades, we do not know where this new story will take us – and this leaves me eager to head back to this galaxy far, far away.