Star Wars Force Awakens

STAR WARS - The Force Awakens

With Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Max Von Sydow, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Lupita Nyong'o

Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt (based on characters created by George Lucas)

Directed by J.J. Abrams

Star Wars is one of those handful movie franchises that developed such an ingrained effect as it saturated popular culture, and history itself (beyond cinema), especially on a portion of Generation X growing up in the '70s (of which I am a part). The Star Wars phenomenon holds a very personal and emotional grasp on their memories and nostalgia of the era (their affinity for the characters and its universe created by George Lucas).

Some take it extremely seriously and it has to be accurate and true to the characters and spirit of what they believe it to be, so they sat poised for this reinvigoration of the series. And the mammoth merchandise attached to it doesn't even need mentioning as the imprint of that 'galaxy far far away' is ingrained in popular culture forever (all to the tune of John Williams' signature theme score).

The reboot trilogy in the early 2000s filling in the missing gap of the preceding first three chapters had fans in a quandary - glad to finally have it, but disappointed in its many flaws.
These movies are not perfect and George Lucas is by no means a flawless filmmaker (not directing too many films to begin with) - but what he managed to do with his main productions of Star Wars and Indiana Jones (directed by Spielberg) was to reformulate and update the excitement and adventure of the old cinema serials he caught at matinees as a kid (like Flash Gordon), the innovative special FX by Industrial Light & Magic the real star in many respects, giving filmaking and storytelling a new language morphing from practical model- and blue screen effects into the digital and CGI era.

Disney bought the Star Wars franchise from Lucas for a monstrous figure, and they intend on getting more than just a return on their investment. So, as a kickstart to the new era of Star Wars they called in the man who was instrumental in reinvigorating the Star Trek franchise, J.J. Abrams. This sat a little uncomfortably with me, as these are the two biggest Sci-Fi properties in the universe, and to have the same guy's fingerprints on them…? Not that Abrams is incompetent - on the contrary, he's a very sharp commercial moviemaker.

The Force Awakens plants the viewer three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire. But, as the title suggests, a new villainous threat is on the rise (and you can't have a Nazi-like villainous force without its Darth Vader, can you?). The First Order is out to rule the galaxy with Vader's black boots now filled by a new Jedi turned to the Dark Side, Kylo Ren. The Republic is under threat but The Resistance (led by Leia) is digging in its heels, while trying to locate Luke Skywalker who has gone missing.

All the favourite characters from the original trilogy is back (in more and lesser capacity), and some revelations are to be expected. Familiar scenarios are also injected from a robot (the new BB-8) holding important information to a cataclysmic deadly weapon built by The First Order, this will have some less intense fans scoff at it as being a rehash, while devotees who recognise these similarities could very well relish it.

The filmmakers manipulate the emotions perfectly with characters and events, from knocking some off to revealing others (my wife Sonja was a rabid fan as a kid in primary school, and one particular scene here had her in tears!) People take these things very personally, and Disney had to bring back everyone from Han Solo and Princess Leia to Chewbacca and C3-PO (even if it was just to appease the original fans and draw them into this new edition of the continued journey).

As a driving force of the new direction this is taking, the lead protagonist amid the string of new characters is Rey, a young girl on Tatooine who is destined for much greater things. She links up with a Stormtrooper deserter to help change their destiny and that of The Republic. (Besides a female lead, the inclusion of a black character actually had many idiots up in arms!)

While this is a visual spectacle and a half, with seat shaking sound to boot, this remains the first in a new direction, with a whole lot to set up, introduce and hint at, to grab the viewer and have them invest in future installments. So it very much feels like a set-up for things to come (however exciting in its own right).

In the Star Wars universe, we kind of expect the characters to have their accents either skirt that of the USA or UK, but here, we now also get to encounter gangs of (disposable) humanoid villains that seem to come from earth's Scotland and Japan - this is long ago in a galaxy far far away, not? (Wookies, Jawas, Hutts and other creatures make sense, but these simply didn't sit right). A small point, but not logical, even in the scheme of this gigantic fantasy(!)

Every rabid fan wants this to speak to them directly, while the rest simply want a head spinning chunk of entertainment. I think they managed to tick most of the boxes they set out to. But with a marketing budget that can run a small country, they very much reached everyone they needed to, to ensure this movie is a huge hit (regardless of negative reviews)

Lawrence Kasdan wrote The Empire Strikes Back (probably the favourite of most hardcore Star Wars fans), so it is no surprise he was brought in to co-write this resurgence of the franchise.

But where these movies had been anticipated events as a true cultural phenomenon, even though you can find imagery printed and sold on any item imaginable, I fear in the hands of Disney it may eventually lose that landmark feel as it pilfers further into a daily commonplace occurance like more TV series spin-offs and other avenues.

Besides all the touted pros and cons of this spectacularly big budget production (over $300 Million) that can righteously bare the title of "blockbuster", this is the movie event the globe has been hanging for with which to close 2015 (it's ridiculous box office receipts speaking for itself - $2 Billion and counting).

Having never watched a movie in the 4DX format, we were in two minds whether the shaking seats, smoke, wind and water will be distracting from the story and narrative which we'll need to grasp for the episodes to follow. But, it was a whole lot of fun, and obviouly the DVD would be bought to add to the collection and viewed again, picking up any details that may have been lost in the rollercoaster effect.

5 / B
- Paul Blom

0 1 2 3 4 5 6
- A
- B - C

Click cover images below for all the Star Wars movies

Star Wars original Trilogy
Satr Wars Ep 1
Star Wars Ep 2
Star Wars Ep 3
Star Wars Ep 7

never let a review decide for you, but for those who need a rating, see the Flamedrop scale below
6 - Volcanic
5 - Blistering
4 - Hot
3 - Smolder
2 - Room Temperature
1 - Fizzled
0 - Extinguished

A: Multi-Viewing Potential

B: Could Enjoy A 2nd Look

C: Once Should Suffice

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