Ladies, Gentlemen and Zoidberg, after 32 years, we finally have a Star Wars film worthy of the name.
As I explained in my review of Star Wars/A New Hope, this series is really more of an event than a film. Given the time that had passed since the initial trilogy, and the faecal matter that was the prequels, I had given up on ever being able to experience a new Star Wars film. The Force Awakens had to be better than the prequels (because it’s physically impossible to be any worse), and therefore experiencing all of this with everyone else was enough for me. The initial title crawl gave me goosebumps. I was just happy (and a little emotional) in getting to be there. It didn’t matter if it was actually any good.
Except, it is good. It’s really, really good.
The highest compliment I can pay is that this feels like a Star Wars movie, whilst also completely a film in is own right. In that regard, it’s like the anti-prequel. Those films stole heavily from the initial trilogy, relying on them absolutely to even exist, whilst at the same time not feeling like they really belonged. Somehow, Abrams has managed to create a film that is very 21st Century, a stand-alone film that you can watch without being a super-fan, and yet belongs alongside the likes of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. It’s partially about the tone and the visuals, but it’s actually more of a feeling.
The best way to describe the film without giving away any plot details whatsoever is that it’s very similar to A New Hope. It’s light-hearted and fun, but also knows how to tug at the heartstrings. It’s also probably funnier than any other Star Wars film. The humour is part Star Wars, part 2015, and yet works pretty much everytime. It’s so good, it almost knocks the prequels out of existence, like a bunch of MySpace posts from a time when you didn’t know any better. If that isn’t a thing to celebrate, I don’t know what is.
Since seeing the film last night, the most frequent question I have been asked is if you need be a die-hard fan to enjoy it. The answer is a resounding “no”. In fact, the way the film has been made you could possibly step in to this one without having even seen the others and know enough to get by. The focus is very much on the new generation of characters – Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver are all wonderfully cast – with sprinklings of the old generation to help them along.
But, by God, there is a lot to keep you going if you are a die hard fan. The font, score and framing are all clasic Star Wars, and the arrival of each of the old characters is built to ensure you get the warmest, fuzziest feeling when they do appear. I couldn’t even keep track of the homages to the initial trilogy. To a degree, the whole plot is a homage. There’s even a reference to one of the original, unused names planned for the initial film. Whether you’ve seen the series once or 1,000 times, there’s a reference in there for you.
The credit should probably go to JJ Abrams, who clearly understands a) how films work and b) what makes Star Wars so special. Unbelievably, the prequels indicated that George Lucas really didn’t have either of those. Much like The Empire Strikes Back, having a new person running the show brings the best out of it and Lawrence Kasdan, writer of The Empire Strikes Back, has co-writing duties here. Rian Johnson will be directing the 2017 sequel, and if you’ve seen Looper, or the Breaking Bad episode “Ozymandias“, you’ll know the future is in good hands as well.
This isn’t to say it’s the “best” film ever made, or that it’s perfect. But it’s a real, honest-to-God Star Wars film, and in many ways that’s worth more than any other accolade. For that reason, it comes just about as recommended as a film can be.
So where does it place in the great annals of Star Wars history? It’s hard to say for sure without a little more time to digest, but if I had to put my neck on the line now, I’d say the order goes:
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- The Force Awakens
- Return of the Jedi
- Getting your gentleman parts stuck in a zip
- Revenge of the Sith
- Getting your entire body permanently stuck in a zip
- The other two
It’ll be hard for any film to top those first two for me, given the emotional ties and love I have for them already. But The Force Awakens made me even consider it, and that says everything. I suspect that if you don’t have the fanboy love for the initial trilogy I have, you might even place this one at the top.
Star Wars: A Force Awakens Rating: It’s a real, honest to goodness Star Wars film. It’s been over 30 years since we had one of those. Just go and see it.
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