I have tried to fill this with as few spoilers as humanly possible
I finally saw it the new Star Wars movie, after a couple of weeks of deliberation. As some of you will know, I was no great fan of the prequels (this is putting it extremely mildly). But the trailer to The Force Awakens promised a lot. Old characters, stuff clearly shot on location as opposed to a green screen stage, just the basic fact that it all looked and felt like a Star Wars movie. The reviews seem to augur well too – even George Lucas’ swipe at it about being a “retro movie” got me excited. George is after all, ironically enough one of the worst judges of Star Wars on the planet, having hated Empire and probably thinks that Phantom Menace was actually the best of the bunch.
I’ll cut to the chase: I loved the new film. It’s exciting, the new characters are great, it’s funny – it’s got everything you’d want in a Star Wars movie. And that’s where some of the criticism of the film the few critics who haven’t fawned all over it comes in. There’s a few who have written that The Force Awakens is little more than a re-tread of A New Hope. That the new film trades on our knowledge and investment in the original trilogy just a little too much. All of those criticisms are valid, I suppose. But none of that really bothered me. Because watching The Force Awakens made me realise two things about Star Wars and why it’s been such a massive success in way I’d never quite grasped previously.
One, Star Wars is really about dysfunctional families and friendships made in the oddest of circumstances. What I mean by that is the reason everyone thinks they love Star Wars is the space battles and all of that, when really a huge part of it is down to the relationships between the characters and the very nature of those relationships. Han and Leia. Darth Vader being Luke’s father. True, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from the original trilogy again for all of this. But it all works, it had me, so what’s the problem? I didn’t go see The Force Awakens to take some sort of Goddardian voyage into European leftism in a post-’68 society, I just wanted to have fun. The prequels had none of this: Anakin and Obi Wan seemingly always disliked each other; the Anakin-Padme thing felt forced and weird; Yoda was nothing more than an exposition spouting machine.
Secondly, Star Wars needs to feel visceral, lived in. I never really got how important a factor in terms of why people love the franchise so deeply being able to put yourself into the world it creates, almost project yourself onto the screen as it were, really is. There is a scene when Rey is climbing up the side of a steep wall which has more tension in it than all of the prequels put together. This is because you really feel like she’s in danger; the shot is done in a way to induce vertigo. Star Wars is physical in other words: the garbage disposal unit in A New Hope, the sliminess of Dagobah in Empire, Jabba’s grotesqueness in Return. Abrams clearly understands this deeply – one of the early scenes features a stolen Tie Fighter, and we get to feel what it’s like to ride in one of them, which brought an instant smile to my face. The prequels, mostly through such heavy use of CGI, were totally devoid of this.
Anyway, yes, it’s great, see it if you haven’t already (and judging by the box office figures, that probably isn’t very many of you at this stage). The best thing I can say about it? I can’t wait to see it again.