ByRoger Smith, writer at
Movie reviews with a good dose of StarWars and a pinch of randomness
Roger Smith

Have you felt it?

The Nerd-gasm that engulfed cinemas long before the release of The Force Awakens. Boxing day arrived and suddenly I was that 8 year old geek again! Sitting down months later, with the DVD release hot in stockist, I decided to take a second look at the review I made on my website back in later December 2015. Spoilers abound of course! So let us return to a galaxy just down the road in your local cinema…

When finally sitting down to watch the latest instalment of the Skywalker space drama, I quickly noted that of course there was no more parade of the 20th Century Logo, only a quiet glisten of Lucasfilm and then straight into that old familiar score of Star Wars by the brilliant John Williams! The opening crawl quickly sets us up for the story which is now 30 years after Return of the Jedi and the battle of Endor. Luke has disappeared and General (not princess) Leia is desperate to find him. The empire no longer has a firm grip on the galaxy and has dissolved to re-evolve as the new First Order. The Rebellion too has evolved, yet surprisingly not grown. It is now the Resistance that does the hard work while the New Republic seemingly does nothing.

Finn doing some serious damage!
Finn doing some serious damage!

All Star Wars fans know that the movie must open in outer space, and so we get a look at the planet of Jakku being engulfed by the giant black silhouette of the Star Destroyer Finalizer. This immediate throw back to A New Hope is clever but also seems to set up the tone of the entire film. What is to follow is a flood of Nostalgia all paying homage to Abrams favourite of the franchise – Episode 4.

After watching the movie and managing to calm down, I returned to work the next day pondering the story and look of a film I had waited so long to see. The amount of call backs to the original Star Wars film is very heavy here I felt. Too much of the Star Wars we know and love. But when returning to a franchise that was crapped on when the Prequel films were made, this is perhaps exactly what one wants. A strong reminder (if only a little too strong) that Star Wars is still fun and cool. My only other complaint is repeat of Death Star #3. Now a gun imbedded in a Sun draining planet, Star Killer base is assumed by Han Solo to have a shield generator like last time, and is far too easily destroyed.

But this is pretty much where the complaining ends from me. What we have here is a beautiful and vast look at how powerful the franchise needed to be 10 years before. If the young Anakin had been similar in temperament to Kylo Ren is in this film, then 50 percent of the complaints about Episodes 1 through 3 would be diminished (the other 50% being a mix of complaints about Jar Jar, Asthmatic General Grevious and the easy death of Jedi at the end) . Ren is brilliant in his rage and struggle to be what he believes Darth Vader always was, while Rey (the new female lead and heroine) longs for a family while presenting a strength in the force that hasn’t really been seen before.

Like Kylo Ren and Rey, the entire new cast bar one are amazing creating loads of action and comedy that is never forced. Lor San Tekka played by Max Von Sydow is brilliant if a bit too mysterious and in need of a back story. The one character that seems poorly created is Supreme Leader Snoke. Let’s only hope that he is a bit more bad ass and better looking when episode 8 comes around.

Han’s death. Well it was kind of thrown in slightly, but this part of the plot is one that was well acted and very much necessary for the strength of the sequel trilogy to stand out. Now we know that as troubled as Kylo Ren is, he is still a force to be reckoned with. This scene was a bit predictable in the end after the amount of screen time and famous quotes that were thrown in for Han Solo. His final talk with Leia and the slow walk across the bridge to his son is a sad one, showing that the good in Ren is still there but is being swallowed fast by his hunger for the dark side.

Luke has just enough screen time in this film I felt. What the new trilogy really needed from the last of the Jedi was a hunger for him to return. By the time we finally get to the First Jedi Temple at the very end of the film I was so excited to see his face! Though he does not say a word, the intensity that is reflected on Luke’s Face along with the beard and long grey hair is one that speaks of fear, sadness and perhaps a knowledge of much more about Rey’s past.

Leia, Chewie, R2D2 and C3P0 are really well played in this film and all of these characters need more of an evolved story across the next film. The star of the show is by far BB8 though! So cute for a damn robot! Funny, full of emotion and always on the move, BB8 is going to make a ton of money in merchandising for Disney from now on.

Beyond all these elements that I have talked about, there is a story with a strong new cast alongside all of the favourites. Even Alex Guinness, Ewan Mcgregor and Yoda get a brief voice cameo during Rey’s nightmare sequence when she touches the lightsaber. I also enjoyed all the other cameos from Admiral Ackbar and Nien Numb to Daniel Craig as the Storm Trooper that falls victim to Rey’s mind trick.

The (Apple brand) look for the new Storm Troopers!
The (Apple brand) look for the new Storm Troopers!

So how does this film look in terms of score?

Romance – Romance in a Star Wars film has always been a difficult one to script. We all know that episode 5 did it best, but here it is kept at a minimal and that for now is where it belongs. 8 out of 10 for this purely for the level of romance it is kept to. Although it will be interesting if Finn and Rey get a bit closer in the future maybe.

Character Development – Character development is strong here though Leia, C3P0 and R2D2 are left behind a bit. Strong Characters are shown more so with Rey and Kylo Ren of course, but also with Finn, and Han Solo. There are still many other characters that are left with big secrets about their pasts. Some of that is good for the lead up to episode 8 when we look at Maz Kanata, Kylo Ren and Rey. Some of it is just darn annoying like with Poe Dameron, Snoke and Lor San Tekka. Tell us why Tekka knows Luke for goodness sake! Another 8 out 10 for this one

Believe-ability – Believe-ability is always an odd way to rate a Star Wars movie. Yet when measured in terms of real sets, real costumes and creatures/robots that are not digital this makes one feel like a return to the better movies in the saga, while bringing us all into the modern age of cinema in a strong and impacting way. 9 out 10 purely based on the real look of the film and its characters and not based on how lightsabers work or the kind of fantasy/sci fi we see here.

Final rating – 9 out of 10. It is not the best movie but damn is it good! I would place this either as an equal to Return of the Jedi or maybe slightly better than. My order of best to worst episodes are 5,4,7,6,1,3,2.

Stay tuned for my next piece which looks at the future of the Star Wars franchise and the full analysis of the new Rogue One Trailer, coming soon!

Jyn Erso and more in the trailer!
Jyn Erso and more in the trailer!

I hope you have seen this already and that you enjoyed this review. But go see it again as I will of course on DVD. If you were a child when you first saw the original trilogy on DVD, TV (like myself) or in the movies, then return again to the wonder of that eight-year-old. Enjoy it, geek out over all the little references to A New Hope and return to that better part of A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… for more from me!


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