Unless you’ve been living in a galaxy far, far away, you’ll no doubt be aware there’s a new Star Wars film out. We booked our tickets almost two months ago and have been carefully avoiding potential spoilers until our turn to see it came around. To say Lizzie has been a little bit excited would be a massive understatement. Okay, that’s enough lead in. This review will be full of SPOILERS so if you haven’t seen it yet: pull out! You’re not doing any good back there.
We finally settled down to see it this evening, popcorn and hotdogs at the ready, and.. uh, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t the worst film ever but I found it pretty ‘meh’ to be honest. Wait, wait, keep that Wookie away from me.. I like my arms in my sockets. Please allow me to explain: I went in not knowing anything of the plot or the characters, other than what i’d seen in the trailer. I didn’t read any of the speculation either, other than what Lizzie told me. I’d heard people say it was reminiscent of the original trilogy so I guess I went in with a fair bit of nostalgic expectation, but for me it just didn’t live up to the hype.
For starters, the plot was just not very good. It was basically the original Star Wars with new locations: We have one of the lead characters, Rey, a scavenger, living on a desert planet and clearly unhappy with her situation. Oh and she’s an ace pilot too. Sound familiar? Meanwhile, BB-8, a droid carrying stolen plans - I mean a star map - falls into her company by accident while the evil First Order hunts them down and burns down the trading outpost just for kicks. No Jawas in sight but it’s not far off. Rey is soon joined by Stormtrooper deserter, Finn, and they escape in the Millennium Falcon.
The ship is damaged - the mention of the ‘motivator’ was a nice touch (The first R2 unit that Uncle Owen buys in A New Hope has a ‘bad motivator’) - and they then find themselves caught by a larger vessel. They end up hiding from the boarding party in the hidden cargo compartments. It ultimately turns out to be Han Solo (the best thing about this film) and Chewbacca, but you can see the similarities. The four of them make their way to see Maz Kanata, a pirate running a smugglers den, in a scene reminiscent of the Mos Eisley Cantina from A New Hope.
Here we’re first introduced to the idea that Rey has the potential to use the Force, having found Luke’s lightsaber in Maz’s collection. The First Order also demonstrate the power of their Starkiller Base (basically a new Death Star made out of a planet) by destroying key Republic worlds, including that hosting the Galactic Senate.
Rey is captured by the First Order and Finn and Han, now reunited with Princess/General Leia and the rest of the resistance, hatch a plan to destroy the new super weapon (again, by attacking a single weak point which will cause a chain reaction).
There were some new twists and turns, but it all felt like it had been done before, and it has. My other bugbear with the film was the characters and the acting. Some of them just weren’t very good. Harrison Ford was great as Han Solo. He wasn’t given as many witty lines and lacked a good fencing partner like Princess Leia in the original films, but he was familiar enough to drive the movie forward.
However, Carrie Fisher was less convincing as General Leia and had little involvement at all in the plot which was disappointing. Both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) gave believable performances, although it takes a bit of a leap to accept that Rey, who has never fired a blaster before, could take down Stormtroopers so easily. Nor how they were both competent with a lightsaber from the off, being able to fend off Kylo Ren for the most part.
The villains were all pretty wooden. Supreme Leader Snoke and General Hux had little personality between them, while the main villain, Kylo Ren, was no Anakin Skywalker. He certainly didn’t command the presence of Darth Vader, even with a mask, nor the menacing appearance of Darth Maul, even with his custom lightsaber. A lot more could have been made of his conflicting feelings about his parents (Han and Leia) and the draw of the dark side, and ultimately for me he was a bit one-dimensional. He also just wasn’t very strong with the Force. Aside from some choking and force pushing, he didn’t show us much.
The mental head to head with Rey was good to see, but there was another leap: we’re supposed to believe that Rey, with no training or knowledge of the Force, is suddenly able to compel a guard to release her, reach a lightsaber with her mind and protect her thoughts from Ren’s mind probe.
BB-8, for all his whistles and beeps, wasn’t particularly moving as the new droid. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ball design, but he didn’t actually do anything in the film except follow everyone around. It was good that everyone conveniently spoke droid language, but he didn’t have the feistiness of R2D2 or the irritating-but-amusing commentary of C3PO.
Also, if the very important last missing piece of the star map is on a USB stick why not just put it in your pocket rather than hoping the little ball of beeps keeps following you everywhere with it?!
There were some good things about the film. Stylistically, it certainly looked the part with the planet shots, creatures and interiors of both the Millennium Falcon and First Order ships. The X-Wing and Tie Fighters were also pleasingly nimble in the dogfights. I also liked the pointers to past history with the derelict AT-ATs in the desert and the holo-chess table in the Millennium Falcon.
Overall though, for me, it left a lot to be desired. From the trailer I expected to see much more of Rey’s journey as a novice Jedi. She was a strong female character, which was good to see, but seemed to take a back seat once Han Solo appeared. I also really expected more from the villains in this film, and the ending, especially Han’s death, was predictable and lacked any kind of build up like we’ve seen in the other films.
I get that this film had to appeal to our nostalgia for the previous films, particularly the original trilogy, while also setting the scene for a whole new series of characters, and in some ways it did achieve that. But mostly it felt like a missed opportunity. Too many of the characters in this film felt like a poor imitation of their counterparts in the previous films, and the plot lacked the suspense and drama of the original trilogy.
Have you seen the film (I hope so if you read this far)? What did you think?