The Force Awakens: Movie Review
The new Star Wars film makes a fan out of our reviewer.
Star Wars is everywhere – social media, TV, shopping centres, bags of fruit – you can’t escape it. For nearly 40 years the Star Wars movies have been part of our pop culture landscape, endlessly quoted, referenced, copied and parodied. Even a poorly received prequel trilogy wasn’t enough to dent the hopes and dreams of Star Wars fans as the latest installment hit the big screen. With new creators behind the wheel, will Episode VII be a return to greatness?
If you’ve seen the original Star Wars movie, there’s a lot here you will be very familiar with. The new movie invokes the story and the feel of the original with a plot that almost mirrors the beloved first film. If I was being cynical, I would say that director JJ Abrams had just hit copy and paste and added a few new toys to sell at Target. But (for a change), I’m not going to be cynical. The creative team behind this movie have clearly spent the last 30+ years studying the original trilogy. They know it inside and out. If anything, The Force Awakens demonstrates that while they love the original, they also know where the flaws are. Here, they take what is good and change what is bad. And what we’re left with is something far more enjoyable than a sequel so hotly anticipated has any right to be.
JJ Abrams and his crew have not just learnt from the originals, they’ve paid attention to what didn’t work in the prequel trilogy. While there is an abundance of CGI in play here, it doesn’t feel as forced and gratuitous as it did back in 1999. The locations feel real and lived in. This is not a brand new shiny galaxy, but one that has a history. More effort has been put into giving these characters actual personalities than in any previous Star Wars movie (yes, including the originals). Rey and Finn, our two main characters, are not just plot devices or stand-ins for Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. They are funny and charming and believable. After 20 minutes of screen time, I was ready to follow these two for the rest of the trilogy.
I haven’t said much about the plot. That’s deliberate. The marketing juggernaut behind this movie did a great job of keeping much of the story a secret, so I don’t want to mess with their hard work. But saying that, it’s difficult to comment on the plot when we’ve clearly only seen the introduction to a new saga. While stuff happens in this film and I felt satisfied when the credits started to roll, I know that there’s at least another two movies to come. Which also makes it hard to talk about the themes. This is just an introduction. However, this is clear: the concept of a constant war between darkness and the light is just as present here as it is in any Star Wars movie.
The Force – the power in these films that unites all things can be used for good or evil. And it feels like evil is winning. The Star Wars solution is to bring balance to the Force, to make sure that good is just as represented as evil. There doesn’t appear to be an option where evil will be defeated forever and good will prevail. There’s hope, but not too much. It’s a good thing that the Force doesn’t exist in our world. Because what we have is far grander than any Jedi could offer. We know that the creator of all that is, who is separate to his creation and greater than his creation, has a plan for this universe. A plan that will culminate with evil destroyed and good winning, once and for all. A plan that has a name – Jesus. The hope we have in Jesus is superior to anything a space wizard with a laser sword can offer.
I have a confession to make: I’ve never been a big Star Wars fan. I’ve seen all the movies. I’ll make the occasional quote or reference. But Star Wars has never been my thing. I think in part because I was always felt like the movies were being forced upon me, that I was being told that I had no option but to love them. I remember sitting down in the cinema in 1999 to watch The Phantom Menace, hoping that I would finally understand what people were talking about. That I would fall in love with these movies, just like everyone else. It didn’t happen. But today, 16 years later, something different happened. I loved this movie. I want to see more. For the first time in my life I’m eagerly anticipating a new Star Wars movie. Thank you JJ!
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