DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
SPOILERS! READ AT
What can I say. Let’s not drag this out any longer…
…I LOVED IT!
This was the Star Wars movie that I had been waiting for since I was five years old. Following on from the events of Return Of The Jedi (1983), we are reunited with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) along with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 to name but a few.
But we are also introduced to the next generation, Rey (Daisy Rider), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac), along with our new Darth Vader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It is here that this film hits it’s stride and literally within minutes of the iconic opening crawl, we meet Poe Dameron as he is on a mission for now General Leia (Fisher), a mission to track down the long lost Luke Skywalker when his is captured by the villainous Ren and his Stormtroopers.
But one of these troopers, who adopts the name Finn, has a severe attack of conscience and escapes the First Order, the reformed Empire under the leadership of the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and they end up crashing on a Tatooine like planet, Jakuu.
It is here that Finn, now fearing Poe is dead, meets Rey (Rider), a young scavenger who has found Poe’s Droid, BB-8 and is being hunted by The First Order to retrieve the robot and the information whcih he is carrying. After escaping from Jakuu on a “Piece of Junk” spaceship, no prizes for guessing what ship this is, they meet Han Solo and Chewbacca as they want their ship back!
There is so much right about this movie that I cannot go into everything, but the tone is perfect. Both 1970’s sci-fi and 2015 action packed event movie spectacle. But as is the case with any good action movie, action is only has good as it’s heart and this is built on the solid foundation of strong and likeable characters, something with prequel trilogy missed completely.
The motivations are clear and palpable; from the enigmatic Snoke, to his right hand man, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who channels the menace of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, and his Sith like apprentice Kylo Ren; as well as the Resistance, the new name for the Rebel Alliance, all seem to have been fleshed out with real characters and enjoyable moments throughout.
This was FUN! Something which a movie of this scale and tone should be. Something with George Lucas had lost sight of during in rein over the Prequels. Maybe it is just the shock that Star Wars was not just the kids film that Lucas insisted that they were with his second toy marketing campaign, sorry, the Prequels, because they are not! They were and ARE family entertainment blockbusters, accessible for ALL ages.
The film harks back to glory days of Star Wars (1977) and The Empire Strikes Back (1980) without contriving too much. This is often done through humour though relevantly. But this is both Han Solo’s movie and the newcomers, who quite frankly were so well realised that they could have held this movie together on their own.
This was clearly the intention. Using Ford’s Solo as a graph to bridge the old to the new, which brings us to the most dramatic, though not the most unexpected twist of the movie so far, though it is almost as big in tone as the revelation of Luke’s heritage in Empire.
The death of Han Solo.
And what a death it is. Dramatic, powerful and set up perfectly. Was it a shock? Some have said yes but I felt that it was nicely telegraphed and well judged. Clearly lessons have been learned from the botched handling of Kirk’s death in Star Trek: Generation (1994), with Han being given a great story and I believe an iconic, classical death scene, one which will no doubt set the tone from the upcoming trilogy.
Murdered by his son, Ben Solo, who had turned away from Luke’s Jedi teachings to be seduced by the Darkside and Snoke, Kilo Ren darkest moment comes when he kills one of the most iconic and beloved characters of the franchise in a scene which sees our roguish hero fall in to oblivion in true mystic style.
But tragedy aside, this comes complete with iconic Star Wars visual references, such as the Millennium Falcon, new takes on the Tie Fighters, Star Destroyers and X-Wings, this draws us right back into a world which we had all but given up on seeing on the big screen again.
There is no doubt that my fears have be overturned and J.J. Abrams has pulled it off and not only saved Star Wars from Lucas but finally made a brilliant film himself! I felt that he may get away with this after his take on Spielberg was so successful with Super 8 (2011) and Star Trek (2009), for its many faults, were clearly being used as show reels to demonstrate his credibility to direct Star Wars. As a Trekie, this infuriates me but at least he has managed not to ruin another franchise, so that is good, right?
And even though the prequels are not mentioned as such, the planet Courasant, referred to only as the Republic was destroyed by The Starkiller Base, the Death Star of this movie, also referencing Luke’s original surname from the early drafts. This is very similar to Abram’s earlier method of distancing himself from the past of his franchises, as he did the same thing when his destroyed Vulcan in Star Trek (2009).
But whilst this scene was a big F*** You to Lucas’ Prequels, it was also hauntingly effective. Epic in scale, referencing a Hitler rally in tone a showing the horror of the doomed planet’s residents as they watched the red laser beam streak across the night sky.
But what of the Luke and Leia?
Their roles in this time period are limited. Carrie Fisher has not really got it any more but so what. It is Princess, or General Leia! I do not care what she does as long as this iconic character from my childhood is back and Abram’s understands this, but what about Luke Skywalker?
What about him? All but name, he only turns up in the final scene and does not utter single word. But is this a problem. No. It adds dramatic tension and leads into Ryan Johnson’s Episode VIII perfectly. Han Solo has had his movie, now it is time to see Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master. And I cannot wait!
Overall all, this is Star Wars for everyone. The adults who watched the first movie in 1977; my generation, the kids who grew up with the original trilogy that followed, the prequel generation who have just grown up and all of our children and grand-kids.
This is the film which four generations can enjoy and since I went to cinema with my parents (both in there mid to late 60’s), my girlfriend and best mate (mid 30’s) and his 11 year old nephew, this is a point well proven, especially as all six of us left the theatre raving about it!
Hats off to J.J., a man who’s work has not failed exactly but failed to set the world on fire either. As a Trekie, I found his interpretation of Star Trek to be flawed but his understanding of what made a good Spielberg film was realised perfectly with Super 8, this literally being my go to reference for his credibility in directing THIS film. Though I will not deny my scepticism of him and his attitude towards directing a franchise so damaged by its own creator, George Lucas, scepticism which has now been blown away by the results.
I believe that it is a fair quote to say that this is an instant classic and possibly one to depose Return Of The Jedi from its 32 year number three spot in the list of best Star Wars film, being good enough to join The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars (A New Hope) as one of the best films of the saga so far…
J.J. Abrams. You have been vindicated.