Note that there will be spoilers in this review, if you haven’t seen it/don’t want to know about what happens. Don’t read any further
Right, most of the world who is interested in Star Wars has now seen Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Everyone who has seen it has had their say in some form, from simple social media posts to full on reviews. I’ve decided to feature the most watched film over Christmas as my first article on Makky Still Likes To Waffle. There are so many things I want to talk about in this not quite review, the article is closer to a long winded piece where I vomit my immediate thoughts about the film as well as explaining pieces of it.
Did I like it?
Let’s get the important thing out of the way first, I loved the film. I’ve seen many comments saying it was too much like the original Star Wars film in terms of plot, but that is what I loved about it. There was so much nostalgia that during the first viewing it was too much to take in, and it was almost overwhelming at times. It was quite an emotional experience as you sort of relived your childhood. The most notable thing about this film is what the prequel episodes lacked, it actually felt like it was a proper Star Wars film and not a CGI filled sci-fi based on the Star Wars universe. It was simplistic, you knew what the characters were about without needing a back story. You knew who were the good guys and who were the bad guys with no complicated plots. It’s the simplicity of it that helps, the prequels had just too much going on at once to really focus on the straight forward story. Much like with episodes IV to VI there was a main agenda, then another, then another, and so on one after another. There wasn’t a crap load of distractions at once.
One of the best things about the film is the nostalgia, it kicks in heavily when certain old favourites hit the screen. The moment we see the Millennium Falcon for the first time gave me goosebumps, even more so when Rey calls it a piece of junk mere seconds before the screen pans to the iconic spacecraft. I’m sure every Star Wars fan feels that they should have twigged immediately that she was talking about the Falcon. Shortly after that moment we are reunited with our heroes Han Solo and Chewbacca from the original trilogy and it felt just like old times. Harrison Ford walks back into that Han Solo role as if he never left it. All of the old characters that made an appearance in it left you feeling excited the moment you saw them, like you were greeting an old friend. Even C3PO got some laughs when his head popped in from the side of the screen. Though perhaps the biggest moment is the title screens, the excitement in the build up to this film made that scrolling text and the trumpets feel so much more awesome than the prequels ever did, There was a real buzz this time.
What Is The Premise?
The film is set roughly 30 years after the events of The Return Of The Jedi, Luke Skywalker has been missing for some time. There are new bad guys known as The First Order, essentially they are the new space Nazi’s. General Leia Organa has received word that there is a map to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker and she has sent her best man Poe Dameron to retrieve those plans.
The New Characters
The first lead role in the film we see is Poe Dameron, and you get a feel for his character in the opening scenes of the film. He’s brave, fun, and certainly likes to crack a joke. He’s also extremely confident, though when you see him pilot an X-Wing you’ll understand why – “He’s a hell of a pilot”. Sadly he’s not in this film for too long, a good portion of the film you think he’s dead after a TIE fighter crash, though he comes back to us in dramatic form as we see an action filled over land dogfight between X-Wings and TIE Fighters.
Then we have Finn, the storm trooper who became a traitor to the First Order and a key member for the resistance straight away. Finn formed an instant Bromance with Poe as the two escaped the Star Destroyer. Finn is another character you get a grip on quite easily from the very beginning. You can see even with the storm trooper mask on that he grows a conscience in the opening scene and you almost see the penny dropping that the First Order are not the people to be associated with once his former colleague wipes blood on his helmet. Finn is troubled and scared, quite clumsy and desperate in a way for people to like him, you can tell he is kind hearted based on how much he just wants to help people. With these characteristics you slowly start to like him more as the film progresses. My favourite part is the possible nod to a conversation in Kevin Smith’s film Clerks when Finn mentions he was in sanitation.
We have Rey as the leading lady in the traditional protagonist trio. She is surrounded by so much mystery, abandoned as a child on Jakku, the Tattooine-esque sand planet. We gather Rey was left to fend for herself once she got to certain age. The first time we encounter her is when she is scavenging the ruins of a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer, trying to find scraps to sell so she can eat. There is an indication that Rey has struggled her entire life, though that hasn’t dampened her spirits. Rey is still loyal to her cause, she is very independent, especially when someone tries to help her, giving off an ‘I can do it myself’ vibe. We also see that Rey is knowledgeable about what is going on in the galaxy, the legends that surrounded the prequels and she appears fascinated by them. The excited look her face when she hears about the Jedi and Resistence, or when she meets Han Solo reflects our own excitement about the film.
BB-8 is essentially the new R2D2 but a lot more loveable. He is the droid the First Order are looking for. BB-8 essentially steals the show with his humorous and cute characteristics. I think he became the most wanted gift this Christmas. BB-8’s character comes across as a mixture between a pet and your best mate. Our heroes chat to him like normal and during the scene where Rey finds him you realise that you can never be mad at him, especially when he drops his head like he has puppy dog eyes and makes a kind of sulky whine. The mannerisms from the excitable and emotive noises he makes, to the sort of thumbs up he gives finn with a lighter, these were all things that made him a loveable character.
Kylo Ren, the bad guy who is a wannabe Darth Vader, literally. We learn that Kylo Ren is the son of Leia and Han solo, and that his name is actually Ben, likely Ben Solo. Kylo wants to be just like his grandfather Darth Vader and to be stronger in the ways of the dark side. A padawan/underling/protégé (whatever) to Snoke, (who we know next to nothing about except that he is in charge of the First Order and that he knows the force well). Kylo is essentially a less powerful version of Darth Vader at this point. A sort of high ranking officer in the first order underneath snoke, like Vader was to the emperor. He has a similar sinister looking mask, but he doesn’t need it. When he does take it off, we see a fresh faced almost feeble looking character who is unsure of himself a lot of the time, and a tad whiney. Alas the jokes of Emo Kylo Ren on Twitter. Kylo Ren is left with the biggest decision of the entire film, he has to kill his father. Which throughout the film it looks he is struggling with the idea that he might have to do it. Though when it comes to the act, it was almost too obvious that Solo wasn’t going to survive the moment he went to confront his son on the bridge.
Other characters to pay attention to would be General Hux and Maz. Hux would be the equivalent of a young Grand Moff Tarkin, seen to be either the same rank as Kylo Ren in the First Order or just underneath him. The two seem to be at odds about how things are done throughout the film. Not quite like the relationship between Vader and Tarkin, but I can imagine in the earlier stages of the imperial army, that their relationship would have been similar and over time it would have improved. Perhaps in the next couple of films Hux and Kylo Ren will bond a bit and gain respect for eachother.
Maz Kanata on the other hand is our new Yoda, she’s over 1000 years old and is incredibly wise, humorous too. Her first lines are “where’s my boyfriend?” and “I like that wookie”, immediately making you like this wise old alien. Hopefully she makes another appearance later on in the series, because even though she claims she isn’t a jedi, she knows a lot about them and the force.
The Death Scene
That scene itself was one that you saw coming moments before, andeven though it happened you still didn’t believe it happened. Kylo Ren plays out that he wants Solo to help him be good, he even holds out his lightsabre as a gesture of goodwill. For a slight second the possibility that this could throw a curve ball and Kylo Ren might turn good lingers in your head. Then we see the sunlight fade and the red lights shine on Kylo Ren’s face, that was the moment you knew he had chosen the dark side and stabs Han Solo directly in chest. Chewbacca’s scream at that moment is heart-breaking, you felt that urge to shout “NO” along with the Wookie noises, and I’m pretty sure people did just that in the cinema. The Rampage Chewie goes on, shooting Kylo Ren and taking out countless guards just sums up that he is insanely pissed off. Not only that but you see the reaction from Leia as she feels Han’s death from across the galaxy. You see her go weak at the knees, such a gut wrenching feeling.
Similarities To The Originals
Let’s sum up the similarities to the original. You get the bad guys who are no longer the Imperial army, it is now the First order. Kylo Ren is a sort of leader within the First Order like Darth Vader was for the Imperial Army. Kylo Ren also follows a master, much like Vader did. The First order then has a gigantic planet destroying weapon much like the Death Star, only his time it is much bigger and far more powerful. We see it used to kill an entire star system, much like when we see the Death Star used to destroy Alderaan. Though in all honesty Star Killer is a hell of a lot scarier, at first you think it just shoots further, but you see the big red beam and then you see it split off in various directions and just wipe out various planets at once like they are nothing. The holy shit moment really kicks in at that point.
We then have the rebellion, now the resistence, again leaded by Leia who is now a general, not a princess. It makes sense considering Alderaan is no longer there to have a royal family, though the line from the family friend “General? To me she’s royalty” is a nice touch. We get treated to a new Jedi in the form of our leading lady Rey. It is highly expected that she is Luke Skywalker’s daughter, but this is not confirmed in the films. There are reminders of both Anakin and Luke in how we first encounter Ray. We discover her on a sand planet similar to Tattooine, she happens to have a strong connection to the force like Luke and Anakin did and throughout the film we see her gradually use the force to help her in situations, closer to how Luke did towards the end of Episode IV.
There are scenes that almost feel like full on repetition of the Episode IV. The entire part where our heroes are trying to escape the Star Killer/lower its shields is incredibly reminiscent of the scenes where Luke and the gang are trying to escape the Death Star and Lower it’s shields. We watch Han get killed off in a dramatic manner just like Obi Wan. The trench run was almost identical to how Luke did in Episode IV. They are the biggest moments that are reminiscent to the other film, you almost thought that someone was going to lose a hand, though obviously that’s happening in the next one.
You don’t see Luke until the final scene, where he has been on a secluded planet, hidden from everyone. It becomes obvious that he felt is friend Han’s death and decided that he must come out of seclusion. It certainly can’t be a coincidence that R2D2 turns on shortly after Han’s death to reveal the rest of the map. When we do see Luke, he is dirty and grizzled, a big beard and jedi robes, looking like Obi Wan Kenobi did when we first see him in Episode IV. We get the sense that he now means business. Has no lines, but the look on his face tell you everything, the look of loss, but he has a purpose now. Which is likely to be that he will train Rey.
The general atmosphere and feel of the film
This film is almost a comedy without meaning to be a comedy, it is a sci-fi fantasy with non-forced humour working well with the action and the serious moments. You think that the tone is set as the annihilation of a village at the beginning and the ruthlessness of Kylo Ren, that this will be serious film. You get that instant sense of dread the moment the lead antagonist Kylo Ren hits the screen and moments later you feel at ease with Poe Dameron as he cracks a little joke. The amusing elements of the film develop more as friendships grow between our heroes or basically anything BB-8 does.
As I said before, The Force Awakens felt like a star wars film. Based on when the prequels were made, it was cheaper and more effective to use CGI on pretty much everything. Which made the film visually appealing, but also almost too busy with scenes clogged with too much to pay attention to. This time around, it is clear that JJ Abrams has picked up on that and toned things down perfectly. Even during the battle scenes, it never felt like it was too much. You could focus on the characters and not feel exhausted while paying attention. The use of actual props instead of relying on CGI really helped with this.
Fiiinally…. I’m Done
If you are still with me at this point, then I’m impressed. There is so much to cover still and I feel as if I could go on forever, but I won’t. I mean there is all the fan theory stuff about what happens next, what could happen in the next film? What about the fights? Why is everything so convenient for Rey? The topics feel endless. Further reviews will be much shorter I promise, I just needed to get all of this out of my chest. I would like feedback on this post and what you think of the film.