Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Movie Review

Yes, I know I’m late to the party. It has been more than two weeks since release and it seems I’m among the last few in the galaxy to get along and see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The truth is, I’m not a rabid Star Wars fan. I find the original trilogy? The first three movies? Oh bugger it, Episodes IV, V and VI not to be the life changing events but rather mildly enjoyable romps of which The Empire Strikes Back is easily the best simply because it was the one George Lucas had the least to do with.

The franchise is almost universally regarded as having lost it’s way with Lucas’ prequels (um, Episodes I, II and III) but the truth is the series began running off the rails from the moment Lucas re-branded the first instalment of Star Wars Episode IV. This set in motion two decades of Lucas dicking with his baby, subjecting his movies to so much plastic surgery as to transform them into some kind of CGI-laden Frankenstein’s monster. From simple beginnings Lucas had begun complicating Star Wars to its detriment.

A look at Internet blogger and Star Wars fan, Harmy’s, meticulously (but unofficial) reconstructions of the ‘despecialised’ editions of Star Wars reveals the extent to which Lucas damaged his own property. It also reveals the extent to which fans have been pining for Star Wars to return to the form that they know and love.

With Disney acquiring the rights to Star Wars, the chance was there for the franchise to be put right and with director J. J. Abrams on board, who had already steered the ailing Star Trek franchise back on course, the formula seemed right.

And it is right. It turns out that Abrams and Disney were just what Star Wars needed. What Disney and Abrams have delivered is a fun, fast paced film that heavily references… or, if you must, downright plagiarises sequences from the first three films. Rehash or homage? Well that depends on whether you enjoy the new film as whole. I liked it a lot so I’m calling it a homage. It’s all part and parcel of pulling the franchise back onto familiar rails and this feels like pulling up a favourite warm, comfy blanket.

The film looks the goods too. Unlike The Phantom Menace and its fellow impostors, The Force Awakens feels like a Star Wars movie from the lighting, to the sets, to the costuming, to the hokey scene wipes and gasp, the real locations! Yes, it’s amazing what can be done with actual locations rather than all that CG tosh. Disney continues to revel in its modern girl-power shtick. The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, Frozen and now Rey – not the kind of gal who’ll tolerate a fella taking her by the hand and leading her out of danger – she’s in control of her own destiny. It’s an empowering message and Disney plays it with a steady hand.

The new young cast carry the film well but, let’s face it, Harrison Ford carried Star Wars. I beg your pardon, Episode IV…..and he continues to carry it now. But Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) are competent and will no doubt grow into their roles as Ford departs the series.

The Force Awakens is a promising start to a new era. The force is strong with this one. (Sorry).

Stuart Jamieson