[Note: It’s a trap! I reviewed Star Wars: The Force Awakens when it came out last month, so if you’d like to read my full review you can find it here. As this blog is a record of every film I watch in order occasionally I have to drop second viewings of certain movies in among the normal posts. And I couldn’t really let this new film by JJ Abrams pass by without seeing it on the big screen again. So…this is a shorter post than usual, but normal service will resume tomorrow, you rebel scum.]
Watching the Star Wars juggernaut roll along has been a fascinating experience during the past month or two, though I imagine it has been an awful one for lots of people who dislike the series or are ambivalent about its charms. The box office figures have been astonishing – it’s finally released in China this weekend, which should push it on towards Avatar‘s global record – but I’ve found all the financial talk surrounding the movie as tiresome as the number of tawdry, irrelevant tie-in products, not to mention the numerous adverts and the constant media coverage. And that’s just in the UK, so goodness knows what it’s currently like over the pond in the US. I imagine schoolkids are being forced to pledge allegiance to the First Order every day, or something like that, and I expect your average city dweller spends between four and six hours a day being bombarded with Star Wars-related messages. Of course the marketing will only get more aggressive, with pressure to replicate this monetary success increasing as further episodes and spin-off movies pop up at regular intervals, so that’s something we can all look forward to in the future. There’s even a chance that die-hard fans, so desperate to see Star Wars on the big screen again in the run-up to this film, will begin to tire of the onslaught at some point. Not me, I hasten to add. I didn’t get this Porkins tattoo for nothing, and I’m staying loyal until he gets an origin story.
Anyway: the film itself. I’m glad I saw it again, as it confirmed a lot of the thoughts I had after my first viewing, namely that it’s fun, the new characters work very well indeed (I’m more intrigued by them now than the old guard, which is a surprise), it’s fun, the humour is spot on (I missed a frustrated Finn shouting ‘Droid, please!’ at BB-8 the first time round, just prior to their ‘thumbs-up’ moment), it’s fun, the special effects are generally good (though I noticed a few more of the slightly dodgy ones this time round) and, last but not least, it’s fun. The most sustained criticism that seems to have been levelled at the film’s director and writers is that it re-treads too much old ground, but that’s something I actually enjoyed the first time I saw it and I still like it now. It’s the perfect mix of the new and the familiar, and Abrams has done a good job in terms of blending the old characters with the fresh ones, as well as the slight spins on old locations and technology. Perhaps it’s significant that my favourite part of the film is the opening half hour, which doesn’t feature Han Solo, or Chewbacca, or Princess Leia, or anyone else from the old movies. On the subject of new and old mixing, the second viewing also allowed me to appreciate John Williams’ score a little more than before, when I’d been concentrating on the dialogue. It’s not quite as immediate as his best cinematic work, but the new pieces certainly sit well next to the anthemic older compositions.
In terms of negative criticism I still think that aside from Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the villains are disappointing: Snoke (Andy Serkis) doesn’t really capture the imagination, Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) barely features enough to make an impression and Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux has little of the authority that made Peter Cushing’s Governer Tarkin so formidable in George Lucas’ original. It’s impossible to believe that the twitchy Hux has risen to a position of such authority, and though I like Abrams’ emphasis on youth elsewhere in the film I think he dropped the ball on this one. Very few of the minor characters have made an impression on me across two viewings, either, save for kinky lounge lizard Bazine Netal (Anna Brewster), and when I think about all the memorable oddballs from the first film (jawas, tusken raiders, droids, Porkins) Episode VII seems sorely lacking. That said it’s worth pointing out that my eight-year-old nephew thinks that many of them are great and he knows dozens of the new characters by name; I dare say Disney care more about his opinion on the matter than mine.
So fare thee well, The Force Awakens, I’ve enjoyed your relatively long stay at the box office, though not quite enough to warrant a third viewing. That said, I’m sure we’ll see each other again at some stage, even if it is on the small screen. At least all the product tie-ins might gradually disappear when you leave our cinemas. Or will they? Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One will be dropping sooner, rather than later, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be aware of its presence when the time comes.
Directed by: JJ Abrams.
Written by: JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt. Based on characters created by George Lucas.
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Oscar Isaac, Peter Mayhew, Domnhall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Max von Sydow.
Cinematography: Dan Mindel.
Editing: Mary Jo Markey, Maryann Brandon.
Music: John Williams.
Running Time: 135 minutes.