Finally! Today, Star Wars – The Force Awakens opens in cinemas! We’ve already seen it and here’s our spoiler-free review!
Star Wars is something a lot of people hold very dear. Not because of the stellar quality of the latest movies, which is why fans and non-fans alike are very worried. Because, you see, a lot has changed in a Galaxy, far far away.
The first trilogy was subtitled with episode numbers. It started off with Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope and it blew everyone’s minds. Special effects were amazing, the costumes even more so. The characters were engaging and even though the story was a bit flat, there was enough to go on to crave more. That was in 1977. Three years later, Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back managed to top that. Better action, better story, better effects, better everything! This was followed by Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. While also quite good, this movie is the one with the lowest rating of the three.
Star Wars had, after the original trilogy, cemented itself as a new paradigm in science fiction, movie making and it left its mark on its fans. It also has spawned a number of invasions into real life, such as the listing of Jedi as an official religion. Everyone knows Darth Vader. Everyone knows what a lightsaber is.
In 1999 the new trilogy hit. It introduced Jar Jar Binks – the most reviled character in Star Wars history – in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and floundered along with a plot of diplomatic trade routes instead of the awesome stuff we had twenty years earlier. Things weren’t made much better when the sequel Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones came out and by the third installment Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, people were wondering why they decided to waste their time on the movies.
Today marks a day in Star Wars history that is quite decisive. After original creator George Lucas had sold the multi-billion brand Star Wars to Disney in 2012, the new parent company was quick to announce three new Star Wars movies, a number of spin-off films and the usual buttload of merchandise.
Alright, enough history for one day, because today may or may not be a day where history is made.
The Return of the Jedi in Style
The verdict: Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a movie that is finally worth of the name Star Wars again. It’s funny, it’s exciting, it’s got charm and engaging characters. This film’s quality are not in its special effects or its phenomenal costumes, but in its writing and characterization of the lead characters.
It takes about ten minutes until we really like Finn (John Boyega) and have accepted him as our hero. Another five minutes and we’re really fond of Rey (Daisy Ridley) whom we’ve immediately accepted as our female lead. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is our daring pilot character and round droid BB-8 is the plucky but essential sidekick.
But as the movie progresses, it subverts and plays with these early characterizations and many characters are not the characters you’re looking for. Thus, the movie manages to be still surprising while not feeling too alien and too different to the first trilogy that is beloved by most. Of course, this includes the occasional scene of daring flight manoeuvres with X-Wing and TIE Fighters and – of course – some more spaceships we’ve known forever.
This is also where the movie’s charm comes in. Characters aren’t stoic cardboard cut-outs as they are in Episode I through Episode III, but they’re people with feelings and joy. Finn and Poe Dameron are friends as well as allies. They’re also human beings. After a particularly daring bit of flying, they are genuinely happy with Finn actually exclaiming how he thinks this was awesome.
Memories of A New Hope
The movie bears more than a passing resemblance to the build of Episode IV, both from story elements and the settings. It’s a great and necessary move on Disney’s and director and co-author J. J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan to make worrying fans of the old trilogy who had been badly burned by the new trilogy feel at ease. The computer effects no longer portray a shiny and glittery world full of clean things, but the used future look that the first trilogy basically defined for all of cinema history is back.
Further, in a nice little jab, the writers make sure that one of the most dreadful and boring things about the new trilogy will never be able to happen again. And that’s just one of the many laughs during the movie, and one of the many moments where viewers feel right in the middle of it. During the flying scenes, it’s time to sit at the edge of your seat, when Han Solo and Chewbacca appear, it’s hard to not feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
All in all, Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a movie that deserves to be called a Star Wars movie and everyone should go see it. Will it make cinema history? Probably in terms of box office. But it’s not going to redefine a genre or set the bar higher for anything. In terms of craftsmanship, it’s a very solid and very well executed movie that deserves all the praise it is invariably going to get but it will not impact the world of movies like it’s predecessors did. That said, here’s waiting for the sequels.