Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Directed by J J Abrams
Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford
“Go on, do it now. Quickly, No-one’s looking!”
“I can’t. I really shouldn’t. I said I wouldn’t.”
“You know you want to, now let’s just blow this thing and go home.”
“Really. Really?! That’s not even funny.”
No, before you ask, I wasn’t eleven years old again. I wasn’t eleven when I watched it the first time anyway, but eleven seems to be the most beneficial age to have watched A New Hope, by all accounts, as it allegedly had the greatest emotional heft at that point in an innocent young boys’ development.
I was nine, in fact, when I queued to watch A New Hope in 1977 at the Odeon in Chester. And whilst it remains the top of my ‘Most Viewed’ movies (over two hundred times) it has never been my favourite, even at such a tender age. For reference, it was Saturday Night Fever at the time, as I recall.
A New Hope birthed a fascination with science-fiction, however, which has been with me ever since. It raised questions of morality, religion, philosophy and romance in a head just waiting to be filled with stuff that if I could have managed, would have been poured, undiluted, straight out of George Lucas’ brain, and into mine.

The reason for all of this wistful, back-of-the-bike-sheds, memory lane-ness is the recollection of how A New Hope made me feel. My main consideration, prior to going to see The Force Awakens, was would it make me feel the way A New Hope did? I’d guessed it probably wouldn’t. Mostly because I’m not nine anymore. But failing that, would it make any of my three sons feel the way I did at the time? Now they’re not nine either, though one of them can still probably remember what is was like to be such. He is eleven though, so if we are to believe the hyperbole, then this is the perfect age for him to have his imagination battered into submission, much like mine, nearly forty years earlier.

And big, fat-handed man-claps for the editor of the trailer you can lasciviously drool over above. Okay, so it has an excerpt from the score which, despite much aggravated listening, I still have failed to find upon the release of the official soundtrack, but my oh my, doesn’t it just make the hairs on the back of our quickly aging necks stand to attention?

Well, it did mine. The above trailer was the only thing I watched prior to going to see the film in a largely empty cinema, with my three sons. I avoided any further trailers, reviews or opinions of others that had been fortunate enough to see it before us. I didn’t want my personal experience to be sullied by anyone else. And that is what Star Wars has become. A very personal experience, for hundreds of millions, even billions, of people. This, my friends, is what Disney paid for, after all.

So with Disney’s bank balance firmly at the forefront of my mind, I went into this with a good deal more scepticism than my full-tilt, well-intentioned, headlong-stumble into The Phantom Menace. I wasn’t about to fall for that again, let me tell you. I had even kept BB-8 at a suitably incredulous arm’s length until I had been convinced he(?) wasn’t, in fact, just another Jar Jar in rotund, slightly cuter form. My eyes were already narrowed before the opening credits rolled.

My headspace was therefore maybe not as open to this new experience as it may have been and that nine-year-old riddled with wide-eyed, slack-jawed wonder was nowhere to be seen. In short, I wanted to LOVE The Force Awakens, I really did, but I wasn’t about to let JJ win me over without a fight.

A number of my more burly friends had admitted to shedding a tear at various points throughout this experience and despite nodding sagely in a ‘I know what you mean’ type fashion, I really didn’t. I didn’t well up at all, in fact. Perhaps it was the lingering prequels leaving a taste in my mouth akin to sniffing the same thing in the morning that had caused you to projectile vomit the night before. I don’t know. Nonetheless, this was a dish that was going to be served cold.

So, stoic, stony-faced and largely emotionless, I have to admit that I did actually get more out of it than I was prepared for. I would have liked never to have seen John Boyega before, but Joe Cornish’s excellent Attack The Block had already put paid to that. So, no Mark Hamill newcomer wonderment. Daisy Ridley, however, was a completely new find, for me at least, and a welcome one to boot. The only time I did approach getting a little moist around the eyeballs was when she was using the blaster to dispense with what we should really just refer to as Stormtroopers, for that is what they are, and was whisked quickly back to her fath…(oops sorry) Luke going crazy ape-bonkers on the Death Star after Obi Wan melted into his hoodie.

Thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, and we’re back to square one, really. And this is simply more of the same. The finger-pointing detractors suggesting that this is just another New Hope do have a point and I spent large portions of the film just wondering when the plot would veer away from what made the first film so successful. JJ kept going with this as long as was feasibly possible, yet there comes a point when you watch a movie, knowing that it’s practically the same film done again, before you start to compare the two. And, admittedly, this one comes off much worse in that battle.

As a trip down memory lane, which it really shouldn’t have been, it is an excellent example of massaging the memories of all of those that were eleven (or nine) at the time. It was respectful of the story and it did indeed FEEL more like a movie that belongs in the Star Wars franchise, as opposed to those abortions that were foisted upon us most recently. With The Force Awakens and JJ Abrams, Disney has played it incredibly safe, offending practically no-one and delighting many. The nods are there and the film is chock full of them, a fact you cannot fail to notice if you even have only a passing interest in the franchise or popular culture in general. Maybe not the funniest of the series, but there is enough there to make most smile from time to time.

My fear when the news was announced that this was being made was that it would be just another farmed-out pile of garbage that Disney would spew forth, before laughing maniacally and running for the hills with its huge bag of swag. Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be the case and Disney should be recognised for a good job, well done, albeit maybe lacking the imagination that those eleven year old already have in spades. I’m quietly looking forward to the next one now. I couldn’t have said that six months ago.

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