Monday, January 04, 2016

Star Wars The Force Awakens review – well, more a view than a review

Contains spoilers, I guess, but nothing too terrible. I wouldn't worry about it

To the cinema, then, just in time to see the great Force Awakens before everyone else has entirely forgotten about it. The last day of the Christmas holiday, after which we can stop looking back and start looking forward, to Episode 8 no doubt.

There's been a lot of kerfuffle and a whole lot of ker-ching over JJ Abrams' reboot, most of which I have entirely ignored in a vague attempt to A V O I D S P O I L E R S, that most 21st-century of afflictions (it didn't work, however: Twitter served up with several that did ruin the film, despite the fact they turned out not to be true). Thus I don't know where the general view has ascended to, beyond the obvious, which I shall now delineate to all our betterments.

Obvious fact #1: it's good

It's Star Wars. It looks the part. It fills the Star Wars-shaped gap in our grey matter. It does the job. The dialogue mostly makes sense. The characters are passable. There's a strict limit on the number of planetary systems with names made by sprinkling consonants into Egyptian words. There's whizz-bangs, lasers, lonely chaps in black masks, space ships, aliens, lightsabers, spiritual hokum, troubled families. Mostly, it looks the part. It's Star Wars. It's got the space junk thing. Everything looks battered and weathered, not slicked with a shiny veneer of CGI lotion. George Lucas's addiction to CGI was the tragedy that kept on giving, dragging the special editions and then the prequels out of the pock-marked, long time ago, far, far away galaxy and into a virtual-reality junket with no obvious boundary between the movie and the video game. 

Yadda yadda: It looks the part. It's got Han Solo and Chewie and the Millennium Falcon and X-wings and Tie fighters and stormtroopers and desert trading posts and ruined Imperial Destroyers lying in the sand, and sweet-beeping droids that are basically little dogs, and it's got cool, funky bars with wacky aliens playing cool, funky, wacky, alien reggae; it's got people picking things up from a long way away and telling other people to do things and them doing it; it's got the aforementioned bloke in black, only this time he takes off his mask and instead of a scarred Anakin Skywalker, it's some tortured teen who's stopped slapping on the Clearasil just long enough to act out his Oedipal issues.

It's got tree-lined vistas, sweeping desert-scapes, blowy snowy wastes, black galactic skies. It's got a planet that can blow up other planets – like last time, only much bigger and more powerful than that one, which you might remember was much bigger and more powerful than the one before that – and this planet has got a weak spot that the rebel ships can penetrate if only they get the shields down in time. It's Star Wars, basically, and Star Wars is good, so it's good. 

Obvious fact #2: you could complain

You could definitely complain. You could note that it's a bit tough to take the disjunction between where we left the story 33 years ago – the evil empire utterly vanquished, the furry ewoks dancing in the treetops, Darth Vader doing his best Uncle-Arthur-after-two-heart-attacks routine – and where we pick it up, with stormtroopers killing innocent villagers and the dark side back in the black. You could complain about any number of narrative nonsenses. You could complain about the lack of any relation to the world as it is now, our world, which has changed so much since 1977, a world in which small groups of dedicated fighters hiding out in desert enclaves while battling an apparently all-powerful enemy has acquired an entirely different meaning; also one where the hand dryers in the cinema toilets are now more advanced than half the ships in the original film. You could complain about the price of the tickets. You could complain that any boy who had Han Solo as his father would basically be the coolest kid in the universe, the one we'd all wanted to be, not Adrian Mole-goes-Isis. You could complain that a film supposedly about the battle of good and the light against the malign forces of the darkest sort of evil apparently includes a thank you to Darth Insidious himself, George Osborne, probably for giving the film-makers a huge tax break he had stolen from starving disabled children. 

But yeah, Star Wars, it was great. Two hours of intergalactic comic-strip cheeseburger and fries, an absorbing munch for the eyes, lacking key nutrients, sure, but pretty fuckin tasty.