Not that long ago, in a movie theatre not too far away…
Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Director: J J Abrams
Stars: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels
The plot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is pretty simple. Let’s set the scene: Luke Skywalker has buggered off somewhere to be alone. The Rebellion are now called the Resistance, and the Empire is now The First Order. Both sides are trying to locate Luke, because they see him as the only real hope against / threat to* (delete as appropriate) the First Order, which is set on re-establishing the old Empire grip over the entire galaxy.
The First Order have a new dark-Jedi, in Kylo Ren. The Resistance have former Princess, now General Leia, in charge (seemingly above Admiral Ackbar, even though they both effectively hold the same rank). And out in the field, there’s a crop of new Resistance fighters.
Rey is a scavenger, living on Jakku and scratching out a living trading salvage for food. Her rough existence is changed when a small droid, BB-8, sort of adopts her, and soon she’s facing the First Order alongside Finn, a self-described Resistance fighter who’s actually an escaped Stormtrooper. They escape the planet in an old, rusty ship from a junkyard – yep, it’s the Falcon… It turns out that BB-8 is carrying a star map with the location of a certain Mr Skywalker…
Cue various scenes of space battles, incredibly coincidental meetings, the return of Han and Chewie, captures, escapes, etc., all leading to the big confrontation on the First Order’s new mega-weapon, Starkiller Base: a cannon housed inside a planet that draws power from its sun and that can destroy entire systems across vast distances.
Before the weapon can be used on the Resistance base, fleets of X-Wing fighters and a handful of ground troops must destroy the base by blowing up the shield generator. Having got inside, Han comes face to face with Kylo Ren, who – we all know by now – is actually Han and Leia’s son (and therefore Darth Vader’s grandson). Though emotionally torn, Kylo Ren eventually kills Han to prevent the First Order from falling.
Of course, the Resistance win, the base is destroyed, and the star map is used to allow Rey to find Luke in the end.
That’s the story. So what did I think?
The plot itself is light and generally substance-free, following much the same trail that A New Hope walked back in 1977. The way that it was presented was very good, with space battles shown far closer to the original trilogy than those horrible pointless prequels. The light sabre fights were a welcome return to common sense, without all the ‘Crouching Jedi, Hidden Sith’ rubbish. And the scenery was far less CGI-driven and far more realistic than Episodes 1-3, which will always be a good thing.
The familiar characters were very good, even though Luke really didn’t appear until the very end. Leia was the Leia from Hoth (The Empire Strikes Back) in full military mode, and Chewie was as much fun as always. Han was the surprise, with a performance of maturity and depth that made the wisened old space-farer very believable.
The new characters were generally good, and certainly the future sequels will give the opportunity for their characters to mature. John Boyega (Finn) gave a unique performance as the Stormtrooper with a conscience, and became more likeable as the film progressed. Daisy Ridley (Rey) was excellent as the feisty, independent, yet deeply focused heroine. And then we get to Adam Driver…
Sorry, but for me, Kylo Ren really didn’t work.
You can split the film into three main sections as far as he is concerned. Firstly, there’s the sinister, secretive, mask-wearing Ren, who was so obviously subservient to the commander on the battle cruiser. Vader was never subservient, unless it suited his purpose, and never to a ship captain. It made him look weak and less significant.
Then you get what I call his Jacobean period. As soon as the mask came off, he looked like one of the consumptive poets in Blackadder III. Definitely not a Sith Lord.
Then after he killed Han, he just seemed to go mental when trying to kill Rey and Finn. Zero control, and nothing at all like every other Dark Lord that the films have ever portrayed.
So there you have it. A great film, highly enjoyable, but not as good as the initial trilogy simply because the baddie was laughably pathetic.
Let’s see what the future (well, the long distant but not quite so long distant as before) past reveals.
And, of course, what Family Guy makes of it…