By CHRISTOPHER HAGE & NICHOLAS DESCALZI
Finally, after all this time… WE’VE SEEN ‘STAR WARS: ‘THE FORCE AWAKENS’!!!!
As mega-fans, it’s hard to judge a ‘Star Wars’ film less than an hour after you’ve seen it! For example, back in 1999, people’s initial reactions to The Phantom Menace’ were quite a bit more positive than they are 16 years later!
So this isn’t a full review… we’ll leave you with something a little more in depth in our next Movie Mingler pod… but Nick and I wanted to share our first reactions to the film we’ve been waiting anxiously for over the last 3 years…
It’s 3 in the morning, I’m in a hotel 800kms from home, and I’ve spent the entire day before on planes and busses exploring Melbourne. So I apologise in advance if the below comes across as drunken rambling!
I’m pleased to say I enjoyed Episode VII. In fact… I loved it. It was fun, action-packed, had plenty of humour (maybe too much), and kept me on the edge of my seat during it’s tense final act.
Harrison Ford gave it his all- especially for someone who spent the last few decades distancing himself from the role that helped turn him into a superstar. It never felt like he was phoning it in, and his character was an improvement over the fairly two-dimensional Han of ‘Return of the Jedi’. Carrie Fisher did what she could with what she was given, but it was fun to see that while she and Han have matured, there’s still a lot of chemistry there!
But it’s the new characters I found amazing. Oscar Isaac’s Poe was an instant hit- cocky, funny and extremely likeble. I found myself wishing he was in it more. Finn and Rey were great., I thought they, like Han and Leia, had amazing chemistry, and added both a lot of fun and intensity to their roles. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren was a favourite of mine. The audience may be surprised to find out he’s not at all the Darth Vader- type villain the trailers make him out to be, but I was a fan of him all the way. General Hux was another favourite- Domnhall Gleeson was at his best when at odds with Ren. Sadly, Captain Phasma was a bit of a disappointment. For someone who was meant to be the series’ first major female villain (in the films anyway), she turned out to be of very little threat to the resistance.
There were a few issues. Too many of the story-beats are recycled from ‘A New Hope’, some more noticeable than others. The characters themselves compare the Starkiller base to the death star, in order to try and establish that it’s a different kind of threat. It’s not and it’s another moment when I felt at times that JJ and Lawrence Kasdan stole one two many ideas from ‘A New Hope’. The Starkiller base, while ‘bigger’, is never more exciting than the death star.
There are a few silly moments here and there, the film loses a bit of steam during the beginning of it’s second act and there are one too many convenient coincidences for my liking. The humour possibly could have been toned down in places too, but overall Finn, Rey, Han and Poe will get the audience laughing in a way Jar Jar never could.
But minor faults aside, Star Wars ‘The Force Awakens’ is too fun, funny, intense, and at times sad to dislike, or even just like. By the end, I felt Star Wars was back, and I couldn’t wait to see it again. With Rey, Finn, Poe, Ren and BB-8, the new trilogy looks like it’s in good hands. Only 18 months until I get to see what happens next. Can’t wait!
So here we are, it is currently 5am, and I am still reeling from the experience I have just had. Is ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ a masterpiece? No. But oh my, what a great experience it was! It is hard to imagine a more perfect film to relaunch Star Wars – the greatest myth of the 20th century. The experience was so exhilarating, harrowing, eye-popping, nostalgic, and just a hell of a lot of fun.
I’ll try to keep this short and snappy.
JJ Abrams love for Star Wars ripples through every frame of the film. It makes call backs to the early films (Specifically the original trilogy), but it never drowns in them. Everything seems to be so well balanced. Lawrence kasdan’s script is sharp, quick, and constantly keeps the plot moving – It is the sort of momentum the series hasn’t had since 1980, and ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ (Also, written by Kasdan). The film has many emotional beats, and all of them hit successfully and hard. There is one moment involving a full rendition of the Force Theme – while a certain character does something with a certain object – that had my heart racing, my body shaking, and my eyes welling up. This scene is why I LOVE STAR WARS.
So how are the major players?? Let’s start with the new – Daisy Ridley (Rey) and John Boyega (Fin), positively crackle with energy. They are completely captivating to watch and have a strong chemistry. Mark my words – Two stars are born. Oscar Isaac (Poe) is incredibly likable, incredibly cocky, and just so much damn fun. Can’t wait to see more of him. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is something special, a classic villain in the making – Full of conflict, incredibly powerful, and anchored by a phenomenal performance from Driver. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time, but I had to mention him because of one scene. Hux gives a speech in the film, and Gleeson’s delivery is so commanding, it’s incredible, and unlike anything I have seen from the Irish actor. Lastly BB-8 – I LOVE THIS DROID!! Ben Burtt’s amazing sound design brings the little fella to life, and he is completely lovable. And I’ll just say this – there is a scene involving a thumbs up, that is one of my favourite moments of the whole film.
So let’s look at the returning legends. Harrison Ford returns as everyone’s favourite smuggler and completely knocks it out of the park. He doesn’t miss a beat, just amazing!! Carrie Fisher is more reserved as Leia this time out, but still has that spark under her eyes. And her chemistry with Ford is still there. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker – the less I say here the better, so we avoid spoilers – But I will say that Luke’s reveal in the film is worth the price of admission alone.
So, let’s have a quick look at the negatives. Starkiller Base (aka Death Star 3) never really felt like a threat. The story around it is thin, and the stakes never feel high. It seems like JJ created Satrkiller Base as an excuse to have an X-wing and TIE fighter battle at the end of the film. I’m not complaining, because it was definitely fun to watch, but it never comes close to reaching the thrilling level of the rebel assault on the Death Star in ‘A New Hope’. Also, the overall plot of the film is a little thin, but to be honest, I think it was exactly what it needed to be for an opening act of a new trilogy. There are so many mysteries left up in the air, and the instant it finished I wanted more. That is exactly what I should be feeling after an opening act.
So there you have at, my initial thoughts. Not flawless, but ultimately an incredibly thrilling relaunch of the greatest film series of all time. Like with Star Trek, JJ has given new life to a dormant franchise. What an incredible experience, I can’t wait to watch it for 100th time later next year. Bring on Episode 8!!
May the force be with you.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is OUT NOW!!!