The Force Awakens

Warning spoilers below. I mean it. I tell you the whole plot of two Star Wars films.

I saw The Force Awakens at the midnight screening on Thursday morning with some friends from church. I went dressed as Princess Leia, Em went as Han Solo. It was one of the most enjoyable movie watching experiences of my life.

I remember watching the prequels, so excited to see Star Wars at the movies, and finding them so unsatisfying. I went to the midnight screenings for two out of the three, the lining up, the people cosplaying, that was a whole lot more fun than the movies. (This is my blog post from the opening night of Episode III. Judging by my review, I liked the film, which I guess is a result of my disappointment with the first two prequels.) This time though, the movie was the best bit of night, and not because I didn’t enjoy the night, but the film, it was glorious.

It looked beautiful. The characters were interesting and fun. The action was exciting. The plot was easy to follow (I still don’t quite know what happened in the prequels). I have seen quite a few people saying The Force Awakens is the greatest sci-fi movie of all time. They could be right, it is definitely the best Star Wars film of the franchise. It’s a shame that the further you get George Lucas from Star Wars, the better it gets.

Here’s the thing though, I couldn’t help feeling like The Force Awakens was paying for George Lucas’ mistakes. The plot was far from ambitious. In fact, of all the films it is the least ambitious film in the series. Watching the film it seemed to be Disney and JJ Abrams sending a message to fans saying “You can trust us.”

I was excited in The Force Awakens to see a new Star Wars story, the continuing of the saga, but the film is basically a remake/reboot of A New Hope.

Consider the plot:

A droid with secret information necessary for the rebels to the defeat the evil Empire is discovered on a sandy planet by a force sensitive teenager. The teenager is the mentored, and helped to discover their true potential, by an older man who has seen things in the past that are just myths and legends to the young, force sensitive teenager. Together they work to get the droid back to the rebel base going via a bar full of aliens some of which play groovy music, while avoiding capture by a black masked villain, powerful in the dark side. This villain is in control of a giant weapon with the ability to blow up whole planets. The force sensitive teenager sees their mentor killed by the black masked villain, but goes on to use the force to defeat the villain. The rebels blow up the giant space weapon. The force sensitive teenager is ready to be trained in the ways of the force by a powerful jedi in the next film.

That is the plot of both A New Hope and The Force Awakens.

I loved The Force Awakens. I think they make A New Hope better than A New Hope. It was a great film. But if there is anything I was disappointed about is that didn’t really see a new Star Wars story, I saw an old one, retold. In the prequels Lucas was clearly telling the first third of a giant 9-part story. Whatever they were, they certainly were nothing like the original trilogy. I suspect that Disney and JJ Abrams basically remade A New Hope because they needed all the Star Wars fans to feel safe. I think they made entirely the right choice. Had they tried anything else, any story which strayed too far from familiar, original trilogy territory, even if they did it really well, would have resulted in millions of angry, let down fans. No-one wanted to see another prequels disaster, The Force Awakens is the very opposite of that.

It’s sad that George’s mistakes forced Disney to deliberately avoid breaking new ground.

But where to now? I hope that Episodes 8 and 9 are brand new films. I don’t want to see The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi again. I’m super excited to see Rey become the greatest Jedi who ever lived, able to defeat Snoke. I’m excited to see Poe Dameron continue being the greatest X-Wing pilot in the universe. I can’t wait to see Finn, become a kick-ass rebel soldier. I want to see General Leia commanding armies and fighter squadrons, not just blowing up another Death Star. I want to see Captain Phasma escape the garbage compactor and beat up Finn for his insolence. I don’t really know where I want the story to go, I just want it to go to new and marvellous places. Now that we trust Disney, I hope they do something as ambitious as the prequels, but with the success of The Force Awakens. If they can do that then Star Wars will have come as close to perfection as cinema can.