I’ve seen STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I am due to publish a review of the film. However, the state of intense tiredness and overwhelming overexcitement in which I watched the midnight screening has caused me to delay my definitive review until I have rewatched J.J. Abrams’ film. Here are my early thoughts on the most highly anticipated film of our times…
There are few people I envy more today than those Star Wars fans who refused to watch trailers and TV spots for The Force Awakens. Those who insisted, despite what the studios and J.J. said, that too much footage would be revealed for them to go into The Force Awakens clean. I laughed at them: how, oh how, could such short and mysterious teaser trailers as those released last Winter and this Spring spoil in any way the eventual experience of watching the finished film. How wrong I was. By my estimation, as I sat in a local midnight screening watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the first of many times this morning, there are no more than 5 scenes in The Force Awakens that weren’t- in some capacity- shown in part in a previously released trailer or TV spot. All the arrivals of beloved Star Wars characters, flashy action shots, poetic landscape shots: all spoiled by the marketing campaign. It’s funny that the marketing campaign, the sort of campaign (like last year’s Interstellar) that takes on a life of its own with its brilliance and beauty- generating for someone like me a dreamlike ideal of a film that does not actually exist-, would do so wrong in showing us what we didn’t know we didn’t want to see, yet do so right in revealing very little about the actual storyline. The Force Awakens we expected is not, at least at first, The Force Awakens we get. But that’s not to say this film is particularly surprising: far from it. If I had been asked yesterday to write down 5 possible synopses for The Force Awakens, one of my guesses would undoubtedly have been near perfect. This film is so dominated by fan service and unavoidable cinematic “spring cleaning” (translation: trying to remove the viewer’s memories of the prequels) that it rarely is given the opportunity to surprise or amaze. The first “big twist”, a familial connection that many saw coming, is interesting on paper, but in practise provides little in the way of good character interactions and seems to have been included merely to warrant a genuinely shocking later scene: a scene that caused me a deep personal misery like no film has for years. Everything that comes after felt somewhat meaningless. The third act is no less predictable than the first 90 minutes, yet its highlight is a sequence (shown in abundance in the trailers) that I wholly assumed would feature in the second act. The catalyst for the entire story sees the first 2 hours building up to a confrontation that occurs mere seconds before the film’s end. The Force Awakens’ ending is the most stunningly unexpected and sudden since The Golden Compass in 2007 cut off without a proper ending. The Force Awakens has no proper ending. It’s not a full film, and my struggle in forming a definitive opinion on any level is largely due to its insubstantial nature: I need to see Episode 8 to get the full picture, and I really don’t have enough time in my life to get half as excited for Episode 8 as I have been about The Force Awakens.
To my total surprise, the character I left The Force Awakens having enjoyed watching the most was none other than Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca. Chewie, whilst always delightful, was never one of my favourite characters from the original trilogy, but he has so much more heart and soul than anyone else in The Force Awakens that his appearances brought me an immense amount of joy. New robot BB-8 is also a ton of fun, and has lovely interactions with Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Ridley and co-lead John Boyega both do a superb job with what they’re given (an often shaky script) and the initial non-platonic nature of their relationship disappointed me greatly. The actual nature of their relationship became more vague later on. As for Han, Luke and Leia: there’s nothing I can really say without dropping spoilers. Harrison Ford looks utterly miserable in every scene, coughing out lines and carrying almost none of Han’s swagger. Nonetheless, he gets some fun dialogue and has solid chemistry with Chewie, Leia and- in a surprisingly small but very memorable appearance- Anthony Daniels’ beloved droid C-3Po. Kylo Ren is a quite interesting villain- more so certainly than Darth Maul or Count Dooku- but his story is left undeniably incomplete. Possibly my favourite of the new characters, despite his lack of good material/purpose in this film, may actually be Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, who inhabited much more of the Han Solo vibe than whatever character Harrison Ford was playing.
I’ll comment on J.J. Abrams’ creative decisions and the actual cinematic value of the film in my “real” review over the weekend, but I hope you have- to some extent- found my inane ramblings on this hugely important film (a film that I have, throughout my day on Thursday, told people I “liked but did not love”) mildly interesting or amusing. May the force continue to be with you, whatever Disney have done to our Star Wars….