Firstly, I’m not going to be revealing any spoilers in this piece. If you want to see this film, you will and I don’t think for one second that my opinion will influence your decision to do so. For that reason why would I need to give an in-depth and spoiler filled detailing of the reasons to see it? With that out of the way…wow.
By a country mile I’m the primary Star Wars fan in my family. The main relevance of me stating this is to highlight that a new Star Wars release has never been a big deal to anyone but me amongst my immediate friends and family. Until tonight, The Phantom Menace was the only Star Wars release I was in theatres for on the opening weekend with any sense of grand occasion. Yes I saw the next two prequels within their first few weeks of release and to my shame I saw Revenge Of The Sith 3 times in the cinema. What I’m trying to say is – The Force Awakens was a big deal for me leading up to release. Now in my twenties, in this ever connected world we live in, I had the ability to get pumped for the upcoming release. The last year of my life has been spent with at least some fleeting anticipation for TFA passing through my mind each day. For that reason, I was going all in to see it right on the opening weekend and man am I glad I did.
Screen 1 in the Savoy Cinema on O’Connell Street is a magical place. Outside of some technicalities and debates it is still the largest screen in the country and I can’t think of any other place to have seen this film. In a packed out theatre, the trailers finished and then something magic happened. I mentioned that I’m above and beyond the ultimate Star Wars fan of my family, but my father was along with me for this screening as a general lover of cinema and I was extremely curious how both our opinions of the night would correlate. When the IFB classifications appeared on screen a little whooping and hollering arose from the crowd. As the LucasFilm logo appeared, it escalated. “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” and then, boom. As the opening crawl appeared on screen the crowd erupted, and so did I. Except for me it was on the border of tears. If you invest as head first into a series as much as I have with Star Wars, you can understand this. If you never have, you probably can’t. Once the crawl was gone a whole lot of things happened that I can’t really talk about without spoiling but, suffice to say that there were plenty more moments like that one throughout the running time. I was delighted to hear after the film that my father had found the atmosphere really added to the event. For hardcore and passive fans alike, this is an event.
What I will say I will try and keep vague so here it goes. As if it needed to be said, TFA is very far above the Prequel Trilogy. Not a hard feat, but still pleasant to have confirmed. There are throwbacks a-plenty throughout the film too, both to the original six films and to some of the pop culture moments that have been born from Star Wars too. I will admit that at times I felt like there were some lines of dialogue present that felt ripe for some cutting (be it that they were just one joke too far or a meta reference too many). J.J Abrams was actual a source of trepidation for me if I’m being honest. The work he did with the Star Trek series was phenomenal but that was a series far more in need of rescuing than this one. Sure the prequels hurt the Star Wars series somewhat, but they didn’t kill it. Furthermore, there are only six primary entries in this series (and now only 7 in total that are canon since the Disney buy-out) and so the rules and parameters are for more tightly in place. I think what I’m trying to say is that J.J had far less room to reinvent it all like he did with Star Trek for the most part. What he ultimately achieves here is a near perfect balance of both, performing what is essentially the softest reboot we have ever seen in film. This is the 7th film in the series, sure, but it’s also hitting the reset button a little. A lot of stylistic elements remain consistent with the production design of the Original Trilogy for sure but the camerawork and of course the overall visuals give us Star Wars through slightly different eyes, and that is befitting of what will become a new trilogy. Kudos to J.J and his crew. From a plot perspective I will say this – some familiar ground is covered once more but for me I think it is justified. A key difference between TFA and anything that came before it is the level of performance from the cast, especially Daisey Ridley. She is quite simply sensational and forget everything you thought you knew, she is epitome of how strong female characters should be written and portrayed in this universe.
Is this film perfect? No, not at all. Are there a dozen things I would have done differently had somebody given me $200,000,000? You betcha! But did J.J and Disney do the best job anyone could have done? Absolutely. To have this level of expectation laid upon any director and have the end product be anything remotely satisfying is an achievement of staggering proportions. If nothing else, this has been a once in a lifetime cinematic experience for me and I am already plotting my next viewing. Star Wars is back guys.