Star Wars, The Force Awakens…reviewed by Geoff Brookes

© Geoff Brookes
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Forget everything you thought about Star Wars movies so far. This one is different,
Superficially, it seems similar to the original Star Wars movie, especially for the first half hour or so. Like the orignal Star Wars movie, the opening story script rolls and fades far off into the distance of space. The opening scene of the new movie features a desert planet, like the one that Luke Skywalker inhabited in Star Wars IV. Like the original movie, the plot features an image supplied by a droid that looks similar to R2D2.
But as the story plays out, you are swept away by its humanity. Star Wars VII tells the story of a new heroine, Rey (Dailey Ridley). It features a new hero, Finn (John Boyega). Interestingly, Finn is a rogue “First Order” soldier (the “First Order” looks like the old “Empire”). Importantly, Finn is revealed as a living person with everyday human qualities (including faults). Even the evil protagonist (played by Adam Driver) removes his dark helmut on at least 2 occassions, revealing that he is flesh and blood.
It’s a story of love lost by time and space; of grief over the loss of a child; of family loyalty and betrayal; of the tension between self-interest versus self-sacrifice for the greater good.
It has action scenes, but the camera’s focus never strays far from the individual struggles. Despite the emphasis on the characters, the action doesn’t drag. The editing and timing is excellent, and quickens your heart throughout each scene.
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It features performances by several of the actors from the original Star Wars movie, reprising their famour roles, but almost 40 years older, in the story as well as in real time. The fact that this can be done at all is remarkable, but it’s very memorable for me, having watched the first movie at the age of 16.
The original Star Wars movie was groundbreaking at the time, in 1977. This movie takes the venerable series in a new direction, empowering the viewer to reach their own inferences into the story. Instead of Obi-Wan Kenobi instructing Luke to feel “the force”, we see this joureny of discovery in Rey’s face (brilliantly played by Daisy Ridley). The struggle of good versus evil is acted with subtlety in many scenes, including the psychological conflicts late in the movie. The audience doesn’t need to have the struggles explained to them. The actors tell the story in their physical and facial performances.
Even the music follows this understated approach. The solid refrains of the famous Star Wars music melodies are held back for the climactic sequences. It is played quietly, sometimes only with parts of the melodies, earlier in the movie, often almost imperceptable in the background.
I would like to tell you more, but I don’t want to ruin the story for you, if you haven’t seen it yet.
This is a must see. I would say that among the Star Wars movies, this is the best. The original Star Wars movie was at least ten years ahead of its time, when it was released in 1977. But in terms of story-telling, I like Star Wars VII more than the rest. Go see it in the theatre with a big crowd – which is still the best way to experience a movie!
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