As I walked into local mall for the midnight screening of The Force Awakens I felt as though I were joining a cult. The Imperial March poured out of the PA system, all around me were people in Star Wars™ shirts, with Star Wars™ lightsabers. While buying my Star Wars™ sweets from Coles (as I am too poor to pay for the limited edition $28 Star Wars™ popcorn tin), I was struck with two thoughts;
1. I hope Santa brings me Disney stock for Christmas
2. This movie won’t live up to the hype.
And of course it doesn’t live up to the hype, but considering the amount of marketing surrounding The Force Awakens, it would have to have made me simultaneously ejaculate and reach enlightenment to do that.
When JJ Abrams was handed the reins to Star Wars, he knew he had a simple job to do- make a film that was completely different but exactly the same as the originals. JJ may have been the perfect man for the job as he has spent most of his career imitating rather than innovating. And sure enough within the first fifteen minutes of The Force Awakens, we are treated to a ship crashing on a desert planet, a tease about someone’s parental lineage, secret rebel’s plans being hidden in a droid and a helmeted dark figure with a deep voice and nefarious plans. Oh dear, I liked this film more when it was called A New Hope JJ…
But then something weird happened; I was enjoying myself. Half an hour in and I was grinning like the village idiot. Perhaps it was due to the movie pacing itself so by the time we get some exciting action it feels earned, perhaps it was the fact that said action felt gritty and real, or perhaps the mix of sugar and nostalgia got me high. Whatever the reason, I was having a blast. A special mention goes out to the use of humour in the film, while not overdone, almost all of the jokes land and actually had me laughing out loud at one point.
I do have to warn you however; George Lucas was credited as a “Creative Consultant” on the film and I believe his consultancy takes the form of a CGI character inserted into the movie (with the same elegance and care a drunken gate crasher inserts vomit behind a host’s couch). Don’t worry, it’s not for long and serves only to remind us all of how badly this film could have been if the new trilogy were directed by that old confused gremlin.
Once again the only real criticism I have for the film is that it struggles to find its own identity. Aping the aesthetics of the original trilogy is one thing, but copying and pasting large plot elements, action set-pieces and shot design is another. Then again much of the original trilogy was Lucas “borrowing” from Kurosawa, so at least The Force Awakens has a good pedigree of plagiarism. A movie that took more risks and told a completely fresh story was never going to happen, as Star Wars isn’t a series of films as much as they are a vehicle to sell licenced products. Mr Mouse paid a lot for the rights and he doesn’t like gambling with his investments. On that note…
While The Force Awakens may be a sound film, I do worry for the future. Disney are trying to make lightning strike twice by giving us a Star Wars cinematic universe in the same vein of Marvel. I mean geez Mickey; can’t you let the new trilogy finish before fucking about with Han Solo and Boba Fett origin stories? (Yeah a Boba Fett origin story, it’s not like the character is cool because he shows up for 15 minutes and is such a badass that even Vader is weary around him, let’s kill all that mystique off for a quick buck).
For the moment however we have a very serviceable film that while not changing your life will give you escapism for a few hours. Hell, it made me forget about all sorts of awful shit like; ISIS gaining ground in the Middle East, Boko Haram’s continued terrorising of Nigeria, Coldplay releasing a new album and the fact that everyone I know and love will one day succumb to the tyranny of mortality and die.