This post will contain spoilers.
There’s a huge amount to like about the latest Star Wars film. It’s made with passion, the protagonists are real people, the humour works. So does the tension, and those moments of Star Wars senswunda as we see technology writ large – and in this case often in ruins – and people doing cool things with Powers of Their Mind Alone.
I was impressed by the humanisation of the stormtroopers, and the light touch with which it was done – a splash of blood, a reaching hand, that moment when the helmet is lifted away. One of the great failings of the action genre is the way it treats its human minions as disposable non-entities. The Force Awakens takes a few good steps into an interesting and more nuanced direction.
It was good to see some of the old hands back, and also good to see that their roles are sinking into the background where they belong. The new cast are strong, their characters engaging, the performances of Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are excellent, with some great secondary character roles too. This all works very well, and again – elements of humanisation of the ‘Dark-Side’ forces – jealousy, rivalry, humour, and on occasion common sense. These are all things that will draw me back to see the next film.
But woah, deja-vu! Half way through the film I’m starting to worry about the plot. That story-line… Because we have a droid fleeing from the forces of darkness with information vital to the rebellion; a gigantic planet-busting death-star threatening the very home-base of the Forces of Good; and the only hope is a last desperate attack by a few good men and women to save the planet, the future. And yes, I am sure you have guessed it by now: the only way to destroy this bigger, badder, nastier planet-sized version of the Death Star is for a handful of X-wing fighters to mount a last-ditch attack along a heavily defended techno-gully to exploit the one point of vulnerability.
Yeah, it’s all done differently, but this is also disappointingly the same. Haven’t we been here before? Is Star Wars now locked into a gigantic and rather surreal multi-film version of Groundhog Day?
With all the multitude of things they got right with this film the screenplay comes across as simply lazy. Mark Hamill’s “Nothing’s changed really, well, everything has changed but nothing has changed…” quote now feels sadly prophetic. Was this really the very best storyline they could come up with? I think not. I enjoyed this film. It was good but it wasn’t great, and the story line was the reason. I don’t want to see the same again re-imagined, I want to see things I have never seen before, never dreamed of, things beyond my imagination like those that blew my mind when I saw the very first Star Wars all those years ago..
And it was so close, too.