Disappointing and disappointed.
The way I come to terms with this reboot of the original Star Wars Episode 1 now entitled, The Force Awakens, is the way I accept the redesign of the VW Beetle. It doesn’t set the world on fire, nor offer anything new. So, what’s the point, other than to allow a new generation to enjoy the first one, but better produced? And far more expensive to manufacture and to see. Was the world desperate for a newly conceived Star Wars? No.
Why remake the original? Money. Lots of it. Oodles of it, followed by vast piles of merchandise. Lovely jubbly.
Of course it will break box office takings. Ticket prices for this ‘event’ movie are two pounds dearer than normal. And the hype has been gargantuan. All television channels have shown various documentaries on the series, day after day, interviewed stars of this episode and the others, news broadcasts carrying similar excerpts and interviews.
What publicity, and free. Are cinemagoers being hoodwinked? That makes me doubly-cautious, which is why I waited until now to see it, and alone. My other problem with movies of this scale of intrusion is how they block out better films by hogging screens. The multiplex I visited had six out of eight screens showing Star Wars, two in 3-D.
Anyhow, it is not half-bad, but then, it’s not very good either. First things first.
George Lucas is the L. Ron Hubbard of Tinsel Town, both men science fiction scribblers who made gazillions from their fantasies. Both created pseudo-religions. ‘Let the force be with you’ is their shared hogwash. There the similarity ends. Lucas has yet to be discovered in bed with seven women. Feel my force, baby.
With six films already in the series, the last three utterly puerile, director JJ Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt were briefed to play safe and make sure they fashioned a hit. Hence, in plot we get the arc of the original, A New Hope.
There’s even Han Solo in the visage of an ever-introspective aged Harrison Ford, and she of the tightly engineered side buns, Princess Leia, again played by Carrie Fisher, now implausibly in charge of some galaxy nation or other – a nod to female leaders of this planet.
To be frank, both actors look as if a hellova lot of dirty water has passed under their crumbly bridge, though Fisher has faired better despite the curse of the booze. (Curiously, Chewbacca hasn’t aged a day. Even an old black Labrador has a grey muzzle.) Mark Hamill reprises his role as Luke Skywalker, but only in a sad half-turn to camera, reminding us of why he disappeared from view when Star Wars first took off, legacy of a tragic car accident earlier in his career. Even C-3PO and R2D2 make an appearance.
Nice to see familiar faces, the commercial point, one accepts, of drawing back in past generations with the new. That VW Beetle theory again. There were, however, moments I thought I was watching old people congregate in the Post Office to collect their pensions. The movie has the air of a reunion, and is about as exciting.
When the old school stalwarts are on the screen they easily outshine the newcomers, two new actors of little charisma, Daisy Ridley playing the independent minded Rey, in practical boots and not a kitsch leather bikini in sight. She befriends a sweating, (no one else sweats) John Boyege (John-Boy?) playing a morally confused stormtrooper, Finn, minus his white helmet.
Once again, we open in the vast firmament of space with a scroll of text disappearing into the future – or is it the past? – the Third Reich beat of John Williams over-the-top music score, a pan down to the stars below, and a beauty shot of a giant destroyer. And once again, we have the Dark Side hunting a droid carrying a hidden message, the orphaned desert scavenger who blunders into protecting it, and that same old smuggler and his bipedal hairy mutt, Solo and Chewbacca, who inadvertently sign on as escorts, and do little more than turn on and off switches on the Millennium Falcon flight deck, or run down metal corridors hunted by carnivorous squids.
This time the villain arrives not as a stoic, menacing, bass voiced, heavy-breathing man in black with a flowing cloak and no wind anywhere, but as a petulant, reckless, baritone voiced, heavy-breathing man in black with a flowing cloak, and no … anyhow, he is played by Adam Driver looking like an actor who strayed onto the set from Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, hoping to audition for the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Like all episodes of Star Wars it’s all about war. Everything gets blown to bits. People inhabit planets that are junkyards littered with breaker’s spaceships, and troubled by monsters of one sort or another. Lots of people get maimed or killed yet nobody bleeds except one faceless stormtrooper, and only then so his blood smears Finn’s helmet to help us distinguish him from all the other identically uniformed, mindless soldiers. The rest is as before, a rehash.
In this déjà vu sequel, everything is the same, only bigger.
Abrams doesn’t give us any surprises, but he does keep the plot moving, and allows moments for reflection. After a while you begin to see it all as one long video game, with toilet breaks, but an updated Atari version.
There is the occasional illogicality. The trick of presenting the illogical and having it believed is if it stays consistent. The same holds true for all fantasy fiction. That being so, we accept the logic. At one point we are thrown when a character talks of killing the sun, not a sun, or a sun far, far away, but our sun.
Near the end Han asks, “It wasn’t all bad, was it? “Some of it was … good.” “Pretty good,” Leia replies, in a non-committal way.
To which we say, or I do, true, it wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t very good either.
- Star rating: Three stars
- Starring: Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford, et al
- Director: JJ Abrams
- Writers: Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
- Duration: 135 mins