Star Wars : The Force Awakens
This article definitely contains Star Wars plot spoilers, so if
you're still planning to see the new movie and haven't yet, DO NOT
READ THIS ARTICLE ANY
Firstly, to deal with the aesthetics of this movie, I've seen it in both 2D and 3D (at The Arts Picturehouse), and would recommend seeing it in 3D first, not only because for most of you out there you probably don't have 3D TVs, but also because it is in FULL COLOUR 3D, and as such is a truly immersive, hyper-real experience which you should definitely have.
OK, you do have to wear some funky (collector alert: Star Wars branded) shades to view it in 3D, but it's worth this minor inconvenience to see it in all its deep, spacious glory.
It is true that there is a lot more in the way of so-called physical effects in this film, in the form of fewer virtual sets (there are still many of these, albeit used very well and where appropiate), but also loads of animatronics, lovely costumes, physical props and authentic looking hand built, weather beaten sets. The attention to detail is staggering (the aged, shonky interior of the Millenium Falcon is a masterpiece of set design), and the alternative universe they've created looks utterly convincing when seen in 4K 3D on a big screen.
The sound design is also excellent, with the familiar whooshes of lighsabers, thunderous zaps of laser cannons, and surround sound screeches of TIE fighters all in there, but then we wouldn't expect any less from THX, would we?
The musical score (mostly by John Williams) is tastefully done, but it remains to be seen whether it will stand the test of time as the scores from previous episodes have. Either way, hearing huge orchestral arrangements in surround sound at high volume (including those floor rattling low frequencies) is always a treat for the ears and chest.
This aside, the true craft of this movie is in the way all the more 'traditional' physical movie production techniques have been seamlessly combined with state of the art digital effects, unusually something which other reviewers don't seem to have commented upon.
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Now, to the contentious part of my review.
I put it you, dearly devoted fans (and casual readers) that this is the first truly Postmodern Star Wars movie.
In some ways although JJ Abrams has done an incredible job with this latest episode in the series, I almost wish he wasn't as much an avid Star Wars fan as he clearly is, because there are almost too many 'knowing and ironic references' to the original three Star Wars movies, as there were many times when upon seeing some of the 'new' set pieces I felt an eerie sense of deja vu.
Let me see now...
1) A seedy looking cantina/bar full of disparate (and shifty looking) aliens with quirky music (Reggae this time!) played by musicians of various species.
2) A large planetoid sized weapon-cum-space colony, replete with a huge beam weapon that can destroy whole planets.
3) Said weapon/colony has a trench that the Rebels must fly along to destroy it.
4) One of the main characters lives on a desert planet, effectively orphaned, and discovers The Force for the first time.
5) One of the Bad Guys (who has turned to The Dark Side of The Force) is related to one of the Good Guys.
6) A Dark Side overlord, who seems to be The Emperor-like figure that oversees all operations.
7) A little robot carrying an important holographic message that the Rebels must see to complete a mission.
So you see, despite the other innovations (yes, we now have a black British actor in one of the lead roles, along with more strong female characters), in terms of the actual plot one can argue this is a Postmodern Star Wars because it could almost be a (albeit slightly recontextualised) collaging together of ideas from previous movies in the series.
Whatever you think of George Lucas' own trilogy of prequals, it is unlikely you ever felt a strong sense of deja vu watching them!
In fairness Star Wars: The Force Awakens is intended to be the first part of a trilogy of new Star Wars movies by JJ Abrams, so we shall see if this was just him getting all this stuff out of his (star?) system so he can move onto pastures new, or perhaps a cunning ploy to hook in the fans and set them up for whatever happens next.
Alternatively, is this now to be the 'Brave New World' of a post-Disney movie franchise, whereupon true story innovation is sacrificed at the alter of a quick merchandising profit?
On the whole though, despite the deja vu, this is still a worthy successor to Episodes IV - VI and an enjoyable (even at times uplifting) experience.
I should also like to commend the very well made and
lovely short film that precedes the main feature, shot entirely on
location in Cambridge. It's a tale about Darth Vader and an estranged
Stormtrooper, which is mostly told visually as the characters don't
say much to camera. It's not entirely clear
I quite like that ambiguity though, as it adds a sense of mystery to the story and allows you to draw your own conclusions about their relationship.
I only wish that contemporary film going didn't involve having to sit through about twenty minutes of annoying oversized TV adverts that you've already seen at home. Still, you can always take something to read during this period of commercial propaganda.
Bring back the B Movie (short film notwithstanding)!
On a personal note, for me this was deja vu in another way, as way back in 1977 I first saw the original Star Wars at the old Cannon cinema within the same building in Cambridge.
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