One from the re watch pile…
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Film: I am an unabashed fan of George Lucas’ creation. I was lucky enough to go to a preview as a child, taken by a friend of my mother’s. From day one I was totally in love with the Star Wars universe and very quickly my DC Megos and Micronauts were pushed to the side as my life was taken over by the phenomenon. (Well, occasionally Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker would team up against the villainy of Acroyear, but that’s another story). All through primary and high school, my obsession grew and I had comics, books, toys, shirts… You name it.
My love affair with Star Wars continued through the much maligned prequels, and honestly, I was NOT one of the ones who was a critic of them. Were they flawed, of course, just like many films, but even I, through my rose-coloured glasses, could see that if the saga was to continue, Lucas needed to let go of the apron strings and let his creation grow outside of the confines of his scope.
Thankfully, and I mean this sincerely, Disney took Star Wars off Lucas’ hands, and I say that because they are the only company with the access and capital to continue the franchise. Not to mention with their ownership of Marvel comics, Star Wars will end up back where it belongs when in an illustrated platform.
Disney have basically decided to flick all of Lucas’s ‘expanded universe’ and restart the entire concept using only the 6 movies as cannon, which means the universe is now as limitless as the world ‘universe’ would suggest.
So what did they do with their freedom?
Cynical me would describe the synopsis like this: Secret plans are hidden in a droid which is then abandoned on a desert planet only to be found by a youngster who ends up on a ship owned by Han Solo and is taken to a rebel base and assists in a mission which will halt the expanse of the bad guys evil empire.
However when I pack the cynical me away into a space freighter and send it into the other end of the Galaxy, the Rabid Fan Boy of yesteryear is back… And I begin LOVING it!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts with resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) collecting some intelligence from the planet Jakku. When they are suddenly attacked by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a task force from the First Order, he hides the information is his droid BB-8 and sends him away.
Poe is captured and the droid finds itself in the hands of Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger abandoned on the planet who very soon teams up with a disenchanted First Order stormtrooper who has gone AWOL named Finn (John Boyega).
The pair of them quickly find themselves on an adventure together which involves them meeting up with with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and many other familiar faces in The Resistance as they use the information held within the droid to find the one thing that may bring peace back to the galaxy.
I saw this film twice on the big screen, and honestly, I think I went in with a ‘No Lucas, No good’ attitude that coloured my opinion. The second time though I became enamoured by the new worlds that writer (and director of The Empire Strikes Back) Lawrence Kasdan and director J. J. Abrams presented us with, and I appreciated the fact that by making a film that emulated a story we are all familiar with it was easier for a new generation to understand whilst providing a vibrant fresh young cast that the current generation can identify with. The story overall has moments of great adventure carried with a lot of heart and a decent whack of humour too.
That same young cast are excellent. The trilogy of Ridley, Boyega and Isaac are as good as that of Fisher, Hamill and Ford and I am sure that cosplayers will be dressing like them in no time. That’s not to diminish the oldies either, as they reprise their roles with the same aplomb as they did over 30 years ago.
The villains are truly evil too. Driver plays Ren a selfish confused child perfectly, and his counterpart Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) plays the role of a disapproving older sibling, both vying for affection from their father figure, and commander of the First Order, Snoke (a CGI character character performed by Andy Serkis).
Speaking of which, the effects are truly a site to behold and I was totally in the film the whole time. I must admit to loving the fact that most of the vehicle battles took place within a planetary atmosphere, so just like when I was a kid with my Star Wars toys, a new generation will be able to play out their battles on the ground.
The creature effects are spectacular too, and a fine combination of CGI and practical effects. SPFX nerds will go nuts.
As indicated, I have to admit the first time I watched the film I was fairly non-plussed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, but I wasn’t excited by it, and as a rabid Star Wars fan, that’s what I wanted. The second time though, I was right into it, and enjoyed it like I should have. Maybe I was apprehensive by the change of Disney controlling it, but now, I’m back in the co-pilot seat ready to fly another mission. Basically, these films ‘feel’ more like ‘proper’ Star Wars than the prequels as there is a comforting familiarity in it.
Format: This review was done on the Australian bluray which is region free. The feature runs for 138 minutes and is presented in an epically pristine 2.40:1 presentation with an immaculate 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and from Disney’s most precious product, I’d expect no less.
Extras: A dedicated extras disc with heaps and heaps…
Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey is a really cool documentary divided into 4 chapters looking at the entire process of the film, starting with Lucas’ handover to Disney going all the way to the actual production, showing many parts of the process. Seriously, movie makers have amazing military minds when it comes to organisation and I am constantly astonished by them, and maybe, wish I were one of them. The real cool thing about all 4 chapters is that all these new people working on Star Wars now have been fans since they were kids, and give it the reverence it deserves.
The Story Awakens: The Table Read isn’t so much the actual table read, but the cast and crew’s reflection of the reading. I hope on a future release, the full reading gets played.
Crafting Creatures takes us to the creation of the physical creature effects. One of those cool docos for effects nerds.
Building BB-8 is exactly what it sounds like. The production and puppeteering of the incredible PRACTICAL effect of BB-8.
Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight looks at the sets, choreography and performance taken to produce the final lightsaber battle in the snow.
ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force is to CGI what the Crafting Creatures doco was to physical effects. That same nerd reflex kicks in if your interest is in CGI.
John Williams: The Seventh Symphony discusses one of my favourite aspects of film, and John Williams scores ARE Star Wars: this extra celebrates his contributions.
Deleted Scenes shows six deleted scenes, and they must have only been taken out for timing, because I can’t see any reason why they were removed, in actual fact, I demand a restored version right now!
Force for Change informs us of an initiative based around Star Wars fandom where donations can be made to charity via our combined love of the force. Learn more at http://www.forceforchange.com .
I will have to also give the producers of the disc credit as the note about ‘commentaries by cast and crew not reflecting the corporation’ is shown once, under the ‘Info’ listing in the extras, instead of being a disturbing 30 second beginning of every extra.
The edition I have reviewed is a very sexy steelbook edition, which also comes with a digital download of the film, and a few inserts advertising various Star Wars consumables.
WISIA: Over and above any initial criticisms or smarminess I may have had towards this film, it’s Star Wars, and either I or my family or friends are going to trundle it out, just like the other 6, whenever we don’t know want to watch, and the excitement level and affection will constantly be present.