FilmsStar Wars

Star Wars: The Force Awakes (Blu-ray film review).

I must be one of the last to see ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakes’ and I can understand why a lot of people see so much of the original ‘Star Wars: A New Hope’ in it but I can also see strong plot elements of ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and a touch of ‘Return Of The Jedi’ in it as well. I almost expected Rey to say in the final scene, ‘Daddy’. Speaking of whom, there is even elements from ‘The Phantom Menace’ as well with Rey’s discovery that she has access to the Force and instinctively knows how to use it, although you would think she would have known she had the power by her age. Anyone want to bet that the opening scenes of the next film were recorded with the final scene or why else has Mark Hamill got a second position starring credit for 30 seconds work?


Having avoided looking up too much about the film and not really looking up any of the ‘Star Wars’ websites, I’m more amazed that one element has still been kept quiet even now. I suspect somewhere some fans are going to think the survival rate is different. Without wishing to give anything away, there is a distinct but truthful parallel to something about Darth Vader and killing the father taken to a different extreme.

Rather than dwell too much on spoiling the plot for those who have only just gotten to see the film like myself, I’m going to broadstroke on things that struck me. Much of the plot elements has gone back to George Lucas’ original source of Joseph Campbell’s book ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ and different character journeys all eventually going towards the same goal.

Although it’s not disclosed how far past ‘Return Of The Jedi’ the storyline has moved but based off appearances, I would probably estimate 30-40 years, although actor Anthony Daniels in the extras does say it’s actually 30 years. You would think that even after Luke Skywalker’s disappearance that more people with affinity with the Force would pop up. Just because they lack Jedi training doesn’t mean that they can’t use its energy. In fact, I would have thought that there would have been more wildcards out there.

Equally, the Resistance failed to remove or resolve the vestiges of the Empire and haven’t had much changes in technology. Even more so, the same applies to the First Order’s spacecraft as well. Surely all that investment in the new bigger bad weapon like the Starkiller would also have included better spacecraft as well. From the extras, they point out that they needed to establish that they had the same kind of technology and then forget BB-8 is a massive jump from the likes of R2-D2. When you consider how much our own technology has moved on in 30 years, you would think that would also apply in a galaxy far, far away. That doesn’t mean things can’t still be recognisable but you would expect to see new mixed with old.

Saying that, the space battles could do far more than the original films and it was interesting seeing the Millennium Falcon put through its paces in all terrains. Probably one odd thing is considering how long Han Solo has been mates with Chewbacca, you would have thought the Wookie would have let him shoot his bowcaster by now.

The Resistance seems awfully good at winning battles but never bringing an overall peace if something like the First Order can literally bring them to submission. Comparisons between the original Empire and the First Order and you can see a stronger association to Nazism. Certain Supreme Leader Snoke has more in common with Palpatine and has to be the current Lord of The Sith. Something that struck me from Andy Serkis discussing Snoke in the extras is just how big is this Supreme Leader? After all, we only see his hologram. In reality, he could end up being quite tiny.

What’s more amazing is how other than Kylo Ren, that two people who have never played with light-sabres before become instant experts. Granted, unlike Ben Kenobi’s original comment that the light-sabre is a weapon of elegance, they do slug it out but you would have thought Ren’s use would certainly have been more refined. However, when you consider he acts like a boy with a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way, maybe that shouldn’t be too surprising.

So much of the story has been implied and less propelled by dialogue or rather dialogue that isn’t important to propel the story. When you consider three writers are credited with the script, you would think something more memorable could be quoted other than perhaps ‘Escape now, hug later.’ For the likes of me, I can’t recall anyone saying, ‘May the Force be with you’ but then there aren’t enough Jedis around to remember the blessing. My ‘Star Wars’ colleague, John Rivers, points out that Leia does say it once but how many of you can remember her doing it?

Has anyone tried to spot the words in the stars in the opening of the film? As to the Rathgars, surely they should have been mentioned as being some of the animals not actually injured on set? No wonder they were hungry when brought onto the set. The First Order should also have learnt that it makes more sense to have clone Stormtroopers than risk normal humans break their conditioning. You would have thought droids would have been a better option for better obedience. Oddly, we don’t really discover what motivated Finn to join the First Order in the first place. I mean, it has to be more than conditioning that gets you to join up with such organisations even if it’s purely by mistake. Even so, with every Stormtrooper wearing helmets all the time, you have to wonder how they can recognise each other, let alone have downtime, if only to eat and sleep.

The second blu-ray disk has nine majors features. The first, ‘Secrets Of The Force’, is an hour long examination of the making of the film from cast and production, looking at the original first film to the current one. Added into this mix, the current casting and remaking the Millennium Falcon, amongst other things. I wonder if they’ll keep this version in cold storage even after the next two films because the work involved would be a shame to know its dismantled again.

Of the other eight, six and eight minutes long and two about five minutes long, looking at everything from the aliens to BB-8’s design to John Williams’ music. There’s only about five minutes of outtakes so we might be spared George Lucas re-editing this film every few years. With the amount of CGI, I suspect nothing much was wasted.

As you can see from my comments above, I’ve referenced a lot from these extras so they do enhance the film. Seeing the work involved does make me appreciate it more for the second viewing. Thinking back to when I saw the original back in 1977, there was nothing like it. The problem today, especially with CGI, there’s a lot like it out there as well. Coming in with recognisable characters and a certain spaceship from the original trilogy is the main thing that differentiates it from other SF films. Even so, there’s something that makes me stop thinking of it as a pure classic yet. This has nothing to do with the cast and crew, which does an excellent job, but less sure about wanting to see it multiple times but that is also true of other modern films as well. Perhaps a second viewing will resolve that issue.

GF Willmetts

April 2016

(region B blu-ray. pub: Disney/Lucasfilm. 2 blu-ray 136 minute film with extras. Price: about £15.00 (UK). ASIN: BUY0262501)

cast: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew

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Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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