Rusty and dusty — it’s the overall look and feel of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Fans of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars universe will have worked that out just on the basis of the trailers alone which have been coming out over the Net over the last 12 months. The film itself does not disappoint. Indeed, “We’re home!” Han Solo, in a single line in the movie, captures in words the collective warm fuzzy feeling we settled into as the movie unfolded before us.
After all, what made Star Wars the groundbreaking sci-fi movie (regarded as such back in 1977) was the notion that a film consisting mainly of aliens (whether humanoid or otherwise) wielding fantastic technology could be set amidst derelict, weather-beaten stuff. Or that such a story could be set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”. Or that a space ship that could make “the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs” was really “a piece of junk” used for smuggling contraband freight. Of course, many other sci-fi writers who had already envisioned similar worlds had come before. But George Lucas was the first to make a film that captured an unprecedented essence.
In 1977, Star Wars Episode IV (“A New Hope”), unlike many space movies that came before it, gave its audience the feeling that they were witnessing but a tiny episode set in a small corner of a vast universe where many parallel adventures were transpiring simultaneously (and much much more that had transpired before it). This was at a time when we had no idea how big Star Wars would go on to be. Says Ford of the original trilogy in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald during a promotional trip to Sydney a couple of weeks back, “It didn’t even look like science fiction; it was something we’d never even seen before.”
The Force Awakens is brilliant in that it re-captures the feel of the original. In that regard, it is a movie both for the original generation of fans and for the new ones. Watch the movie whether or not you’ve seen the previous episodes. It wouldn’t matter as much as it didn’t matter to the original fans that Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) and the original sequels (Episodes V and VI) also introduced us to Lucas’s galaxy in the middle of the story.
And watch it in a theatre. At peak hour! There’s nothing like the feeling of sitting through the film amidst hundreds of fellow fans. Being a participant in the collective gasp of the audience when Han Solo and Chewie (played by Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew respectively) first appear, alone, makes the experience worth the trip! But all of the oldies’ otherwise breathtaking performances really just serve as a backdrop to the younger ones’ superb rendering of the new characters introduced in this latest instalment. True to original form, this one takes relatively unknowns and throws them into the deep end out of which they fly.
Director J.J. Abrams is the modern film industry hero not just for reawakening the Star Wars world but also for the equally heroic task of making a new generation of Star Trek movies that passed the uncompromising scrutiny of Trekkie fans. That’s billion-dollar expertise packaged in one great director.
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