“Okay. How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.”
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, directed by J. J. Abrams in 2015, is a science fiction fantasy movie based on George Lucas’s series from the 1970s and 1980s. Set thirty years after the third movie in the original trilogy, it focuses on Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, a scavenger on a arid planet who, after meeting Finn, a soldier who has deserted the fascistic ‘First Order’, finds herself embroiled in the hunt for the mythic Luke Skywalker and in the fight to destroy a planet-bashing weapon. What struck me first watching this was the lightness of touch with the dialogue that wasn’t present in the original 1977 movie. The special effects are still the meat of the film, but unlike the original they are not designed to stand-out, but rather to create a believable background for the characters to play out their stories. This is partially due to the fact that as a viewer we are now almost immune to the spectacle of special effects, unless as in Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’ or ‘Interstellar’ they are laced with some metaphysical significance. Interestingly Abrams movie finds the effects reaching a particular point. In the second trilogy of Star Wars movies in the 1990s, Lucas used cutting edge CGI to create his effects, but in doing so lost the solidity and the sense of grounding that the model work of the original movies imparted. In ‘The Force Awakens’, the CGI is still ubiquitous, but, importantly, the technology has got to the level where it is now difficult to distinguish between the models work, the practical effects and the material created entirely within the computer. Abrams sold his movie partially on the physicality of his direction, making a great show of how he built full-scale spaceships, but his success lies mainly in the integration between the different forms of effect work. This achievement really sums up the true worth of the film combining the nostalgic with the progressive; creating something simultaneously old and new, and this is exactly what Lucas had in mind with the original.
Would I recommend it? No need – you’ve probably already seen it.