It is hard to believe that it’s been a whopping 38 years since the first Star Wars film screened. The latest instalment (directed by JJ Abrams) has created a huge amount of hype, broken box office records and generated a buzz amongst social media pundits.
Being a die-hard Star Wars fan since I was 10 years old, I was itching to see it. Thanks to a Christmas gift of tickets to the 3D edition at Wellington’s Embassy theatre, I was on my way. Here are my post movie thoughts (Warning: spoilers ahead).
The plot underpinning The Force Awakens is simple. This is both a key strength and a fundamental weakness of the movie.
Having defeated the empire, the power vacuum is soon filled with new baddies, the First Order. They seem very empire-like. I say this because the First Order has a bad dude (Kylo Ren) who seems to be largely Vader-inspired (he even has Vader’s melted mask and ashes). He’s also Han Solo’s son (what are the odds of this?).
The First Order's storm troopers are, well, also very storm trooper like. There must have been a sale on empire leftovers at the military surplus store?
It turns out that Luke Skywalker had been training young Jedi’s. After an apprentice turned to the dark side, Luke packed a sad and vanished. The First Order and resistance (headed up by Carrie Fisher) are both trying to find him…
The movie starts with the ace pilot, Po Dameron and his BB8 droid on the desert planet, Jakku (why desert planets are such a thing with Star Wars is frankly mystifying, but there you go). Po is following up a lead that sees him acquiring a partial map to Luke's location.
The First Order turns up, massacre the locals and capture Po. Po gives the USB key thingy with the map of Skywalker’s whereabouts to his droid, telling him to get the hell out of dodge.
Enter stage left, Finn, who is a cloned First Order storm trooper. Sickened by the massacre of Jakku locals, Finn escapes to Jakku with Po in a stolen Tie fighter.
It must've been a used Tie Fighter with very high mileage as its performance is utterly rubbish. It gets shot, damaged and crashes on Jakku. You’d think after a 38 year hiatus, they’d have designed better fighters….
On Jakku Finn bumps into a young girl, Rey, who has found Po's BB8 droid (again, what are the odds?).Anyho, moving along, the First Order head back to Jakku and blow lots more stuff up.
Rey and Finn steal the millennium falcon and escape (keys must've been under the Falcons windshield visor?). They end up meeting Han Solo and Chewbacca who are looking for the Millennium Falcon.
Cutting a predictable story short, the four characters are then rescued by the resistance. They discover that the First Order has built an upsized version of the Death Star (must be that darned military surplus store again!).
Anyhow they blow it up and everyone (but the First Order) lives happily ever after (or at least until George Lucas wants to sell more merchandise).
On the upside, The Force Awakens feels like a proper sequel to Star Wars. It is perhaps the movie that should’ve screened instead of that prequel rubbish.
This said, The Force Awakens also feels a whole lot like a not so subtle re-write of the original star wars movie.Although there's in-jokes and some shocking twists (the audience gasped when Han Solo was killed), the Force Awakens also has some pretty huge plot-holes.
There be plot holes ahead
While some fan sites list up to 40 plot inconsistencies, Here’s the 3 biggies that I reckon stuck out like a set of proverbial Bantha balls when I watched the film.
1) Grand Theft Falcon: Rey and Finn steal the Millennium Falcon when the First Order attacks Jakku. How they do this is glossed over. Does the ship capable of doing the Kessel run in 12 parsecs not have a car (erm ship) alarm or a lock to deter thieves? If so, why wasn’t it stolen earlier?
2) Shields and X-Wings: A key part of the movie see’s Han Solo, Rey, Fin, Chewbacca and BB8 infiltrating the First Order’s super-sized weapon to lower its shields so resistance X-wing fighters can get in and attack before it destroys the planet housing the resistance (sound familiar?).
Han Solo does this by piloting the Millennium Falcon through the shield at light speed, which then raises a pretty obvious point - Why disable the shield, couldn't the X-Wings just pull off the same light speed trick?
3) Use the Force: Once captured, Rey discovers she can resist Kylo Ren’s use of the force to interrogate her. This leads to her discovering she can use the force to trick her guards into letting her escape. So who needs all this Jedi Training nonsense anyways?
Badly thought through and unoriginal plots aside, the Force Awakens redeems itself thanks to a polished 3D presentation which conveys an epic sense of scale. It really adds something to the movie.
The artful 3D is complimented by a stunning Dolby Atmos audio mix. The audio is really immersive and keeps things pretty engaging. This is helped along in no small measure by some cleverly executed CGI.
Dog fight scenes between X-wings and Tie Fighters bring a solid dose of adrenaline into play, relieving viewers of the need to think too much about the plot screw-ups throughout the movie.
At the end of the day, the big question is this: Is all this fancy-pants SFX stuff enough to make up for a story that is pretty un-original with some pretty obvious plot flaws? Is The Force Awakens yet another case of style over substance from Hollywood?
Perhaps the only way to make up your mind is to go and see for yourself. Me, I’m going to see it again.