I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
I would not want the job of J.J Abrams. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be a feature film director and it would be awesome to be able to put my name to some big franchises like Mission Impossible and Star Trek. However, while the former has a fanbase that is relatively easy to please (show Tom Cruise running and defuse a bomb once and a while and you’re golden), the other has one of the greatest cult followings in history that Abrams must satisfy. And on top of that, now, he has to keep at bay the most discerning fans in the galaxy. Star Wars fans.
(At this point in a review I generally give a brief low-down of the film’s plot, but I don’t want to spoil anything more than what everyone saw in that initial trailer that split the internet in twain.)
Just in case you’ve never been on the internet before, you should know that we’re at a point in history where fans of Star Wars have a power too great and terrible to imagine. For over a decade, people have been picking apart the prequel trilogy and special editions of the originals. I honestly believe that in terms of historical significance, the success of the first lot of Star Wars films is equal to that of the failure of those meant to preceed it (apart from The Clone Wars which were actually alright).
One can learn so much about art from the rise and fall of this film series. The way its quality ebbs and flows is a sight to behold. I recently read an article recommending film students to watch Red Letter Media’s review of The Phantom Menace from 2009 and I could not agree more. For those who don’t know, the very popular YouTube channel, Red Letter Media, who generally deal with films and pop culture, created a comedic epic review of the first Star Wars prequel and followed it up with similar reviews of the other prequels. It truly is a masterpiece of art criticism and blending it with comedy. You can watch it here. Be warned it is about the 70 minutes long and there is strong language.
So in order to bring this franchise back from the dead, critically (commercially it was always going to make billions from the name alone), a miracle has been needed for a long time.
That miracle is Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens.
Our story is easy to follow. Our action spectacular and dirty. Our heroes and villains, easy to love, hate and above all care about. And to top it all off we have John Williams in the orchestra pit once again!
The internet nerd community has been up in arms about this and that detail from the little we’ve received from the thankfully secretive trailers and on-set photographs. And you know what, it doesn’t matter anymore. Yes we have a lightsabre with a cross thing that some people who never picked up a sword (let alone one made literally out of light) in their lives, found stupid. Yes we have some of the original cast reappearing which some wannabe cynics said was meant simply to “please the fan-boys”. And yes we have a black guy in a Stormtrooper suit*. We got a good movie and we should be proud of it.
I cannot tell you how happy I was watching this film. The direction, writing and acting from the old and new stars is simply excellent. This is a great Star Wars film and I feel so good writing that.
It is a dangerous thing to take our past out of context. Film historians shall debate for generations what outside factors made the first films so great and the latter ones so bad.
What one cannot argue is that those original films were great. Not necessarily for their craft, though there certainly is some great craft at times in all of them. It’s because movies are not released in a vacuum. Episodes IV through VI changed cinema, through groundbreaking effects and building on top of the work of those who came before, inspiring many filmmakers to come.
There’s no denying that those films are greater than this one in terms of what they did to the movies. In thirty years time, I doubt we shall be quoting Episode VII. Yet like I said when I was talking about the prequels, there is a lot we can take from this.
What made this particular chapter in the expanding Star Wars saga so good was the filmmakers’ willingness to look at the internet and as much as I like to mock some of the more childish responses to the prequels, there was some constructive criticism within.
Yet what if I was to put a stop to this talk about historical context and importance and legacy and simply look at the Star Wars saga as a series of science-fantasy movies. If I could strip away all of the baggage these films have that the world put on them.
Well… if I may be so bold… I’d say that Star Wars: Episode VII, The Force Awakens, is the BEST Star Wars film ever made!
I am prepared to be eaten alive by the internet.
Recommended Scenario: If you’ve seen the previous films. You could actually skip I-III if you can’t bare it.
* This last point is one I just want to briefly address. I shouldn’t be surprised that the race unnamed Stormtrooper from the first Force Awakens trailer would be a subject of contention for some. Yet even I am bitterly disappointed by the lack of humanity shown by some online. Mr Boyega, I apologise on behalf of these people. You did an excellent job.