Ok spoiler alert! I am a massive Star Wars fan, this is not coming from a non-biased opinion, I watched this expecting to love it and think it was brilliant. It’s such a shame when I get these things wrong. It surpassed my every expectation.
Unlike Marc, I watched it (for the first time) on the opening night at a 5 past midnight screening. What an amazing atmosphere, can you imagine 7 screens showing the same movie at 5 past midnight packed out with buzzing fans? Well I’m telling you, you can’t. There were cosplayers outside to greet you and all sorts. So me and hundreds of other assorted nerds, geeks and fans waited with much anticipation, with excited hearts beating under our assorted Star Wars T-shirts. This was the way to experience this movie, amongst fans, the kind of die-hard fans that had only been able to dream about this for the past few years, the fans that were hoping that there would be no mention of Midichlorians or Gungans.
Sat there in the half-light there was a murmur among the audience, snippets of conversations and speculations filled the air, after all these months we would all find out if we had guessed our various plots correctly. Then a reverential silence fell as the BBFC screen appeared. You could hear a hundred smiles across a hundred awestruck faces. And then suddenly Star Wars appeared on the screen and the intake of breath was universal, we were there, watching The Force Awakens at long last.
So, atmosphere aside, was it any good?
I was gripped almost instantly. I read the scroll and was instantly brought up to date, the last 40 years were covered. That in itself takes some doing.
We open with Poe Dameron and Lor San Tekka. Max bloody Von Sydow! Just the short screen time we have him he is brilliant. We were lucky enough to interview Gloria Garcia who played one of the Jakku villagers and she told us he was amazing to have around, just his presence. I digress, as usual.
Then the Stormtroopers arrive and we know we are back in the Star Wars universe, except it seems that these ones can shoot straight. We have Stormtroopers that actually appear to be a threat. We also get some blood, so very rare in a Star Wars movie. The we meet Kylo Ren for the first time, sweeping majestically from his ship to take charge. We know he is going to be a badass when he stops a blaster bolt mid-air with a wave of his hand. Scary stuff, as the look on the captured Poe’s face says as he dragged past. Then (agreeing with Marc here) we the scene that shows us the funnier side of Star Wars, lacking so much in Episodes 1-3, the first of many laugh out loud moments that gives you a big warm Star Wars hug. Poe takes the wind right out of Kylo Ren’s big black sails with his defiance and wit. From this little exchange I knew I would love this film.
So far it just seems like I am retelling the story, well I kind of am so I should stop and go into the characters we meet and are reintroduced to.
I will start, as they are in the previous few lines with Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron.
I thought Kylo Ren was a stroke of genius. Flawed and furious, full of rage as he battles against his light side, almost the complete opposite of the grandfather he so wishes to emulate. I thought the costume design was fantastic, really iconic and with an awesome new weapon. Adam Driver managing to act through a mask is a masterclass. You can really feel his emotions through his body language. I loved him, and although he committed the worst patricide imaginable to everybody's favourite scruffy looking nerf herder it showed him to be a villain to be reckoned with. My own personal theories aside, this was the pivotal point in Kylo Ren’s journey, will be able to redeem himself? Will they really kill Han and Leia's’son? What a journey we are on!
Poe Dameron was the cool hero of the movie, and although his scene with Ren was brilliant he didn’t get to do much after this. Lots of man hugging, some amazing piloting (is he the best in the entire series, my guess is yes and we will see much more in films to come) and some bolstering the troops before they fly off to what will certainly be their biggest and deadliest battle. I really enjoyed the screen time he had and he is a welcome addition to the cast. Great taste in jackets as well.
Harrison Ford reprised the role that not only made him, but that he liked least of all. We all knew (spoiler alert!) that at some point he would be killed off, it was the only reason that Ford came back, we just didn’t see it coming so soon. Han was back to being a cheeky smuggler, lost and adrift in space, running from the loss of his family and his love. There was still a spark between Han and Leia which was great to see, but it was Han's interactions with the newest cast members that had us all cheering for him again, and then shocked by his demise. Ford can clearly act the fool as he was funnier in this than any of the previous movies. And it seemed that he felt this would be a fitting goodbye to arguably the best loved character in the original films. When his end came you could feel the emotion, the turmoil in both Han and Ben. It was a great passing of the torch scene I thought.
Daisy Ridley's Rey was the twist that none of us at Talk Star Wars saw coming, so very clever of you JJ! Having watched the movie many times now I can fully appreciate the subtle nods to her Force use all the way through the movie (I’m sure I go over it several times in a podcast or two). She is not Luke Skywalker, but maybe a relative, well unless she is a Kenobi? Her story is only just brushed upon, there is so much more about her we still need to learn, she alone is good enough for me to be desperate to watch the next episode. What an actress Daisy Ridley is, what casting. She can do quiet contemplation sitting against the foot of an AT-AT to excited super pilot to action heroine and then to some brilliant comedy with ease. Possibly my favourite scene in the movie would be when she catches the Lightsabre, the music hits and then you really realize who the Jedi Knight is going to be, and it’s not Finn!
And that leads me to Finn. I really enjoyed John Boyega in the brilliant Attack the Block as the brooding antihero Moses. Here he really gets to show us his acting chops. For a start, he’s American. Along with Adam Driver he acts through a mask and uniform to show us the fear and confusion he feels the heat of his first battle. His character changes as the film goes on from somebody running from his fate to a hero running towards his fate. By the end of the film he is willing to risk the safety of the universe to save his friend. OK, so maybe he was being a little reckless there. The chemistry between Finn and Solo (did I just call him Solo?) is brilliant, they play off each other so well, with Finn being the funniest Star Wars character ever. Physical comedy aside, Boyega shows a charisma on screen that will carry him through the next few films and win him even more fans.
The other players in the film have smaller roles but a few need mentioning.
Snoke, whomever he may be may have looked little like Gollum on a throne but you could feel his menace, and he will be the subject of at least 2 years of speculation as to where he came from. Whoever he is, his brief appearances with Ren and Hux are a good way to build on the heat between the two.
Hux is like Ren’s bickering brother, seemingly trying to get one up on each other throughout the film, giving another, human layer to the usual cold bad guy figures. Excited at the thought of wiping out billions of lives Hux thrives on the massive weapon he has created; makes you think he might be a little short out of those boots.
Leia is, as always, royalty. Despite not being in the movie for that much and having dared to age 30 years in the last 30 years she still possesses that inner fire that Leia always had. Although no longer a Princess (to be fair it’s hard to be Princess to a planet that was destroyed) but as a military leader she excels. Her moments with Han are both funny and touching. Her sadness over the fate of their son and her faith in his redemption are more reminiscent of Luke in the original movies, and his faith in their father. She still rules the screen when she is on it, and as a fan I am glad she is back with us. Hopefully she will have even more screen time in the future.
Luke, well I have heard people complain about Luke’s screen time. To be fair, it is a movie about searching for Luke Skywalker, if they found him after 20 minutes it would have been a short film. Even the minute or two he is on screen throws up plenty of questions for us. Is he standing by a grave? What happened to his hand? What has he been eating? If 2 minutes of screen time can have you feeling like a child again and opening up debates with the possible look of recognition then it is 2 minutes very well spent.
Chewie was great in this, with more action and screen time than usual, even he manages to be funny. With Peter Mayhew's ongoing poor health the combination of him and the new actor Joonas Suotamo is seamless. I think it is great that Mayhew got to play Chewie again, the big walking carpet.
In a movie full of so many characters it is hard to cover them all so I can sum all the rest with, great job, loved you all.
To me this movie IS Star Wars, you knew you were in a Star Wars movie from the very beginning. The 2 hours 15 minutes or so just flew by, it seemed over before you knew it. That’s is the mark of a good film. It is one of the funniest films of the last few years, funnier even than the award winning Martian (really? Comedy?) Rey and Finn being the standouts, they are the next generation's Star Wars. The torch has been passed, and passed well.
Although as I admit I am a fan I have yet to meet anyone who hasn’t enjoyed this film. It may have become a little cool among the fans to bash it a bit, but they are wrong.
Fan or not, this is a near perfect movie, I have spoken to an octogenarian recently who went to watch it with his son, grandson and great grandson, they all loved it. 4 generations in one sitting all enjoying the same movie. How many other movies can you say that about?
So yes, I was always going to enjoy this, but I can honestly say I had no idea I would enjoy it this much. How many stars would I give it? As many as Han Solo can imagine, and he can imagine quite a lot.
Thank you for reading,