The Force Awakens (AKA Star Wars Episode VII) is probably the only movie I’ve been to see twice in the cinema. I saw it the first time on the Sunday after The Force Awakens was released. I’m not an obsessive Star Wars fan, at least not compared to some of the people I know (like my 10-year-old son), but I have seen all the movies multiple times (on DVD) and in my twenties I ran a Star Wars roleplaying campaign. So I know the material pretty well, and I enjoy it.

Star Wars is Fantasy

Han Solo - returns in The Force Awakens
Han Solo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Star Wars is not science fiction, it’s fantasy with a space opera theme. This is an important distinction, because it directs how we should suspend disbelief when watching it. You can test this easily, fantasy confuses space and time to suit the plot. Science fiction tends to be consistent on the consequences of its premise.

For Star Wars as fantasy just google ‘parsec’. When you know what a parsec is, see if the legend of Han Solo‘s Kessel Run (in 12 parsecs) makes sense. Also, where it makes sense to the plot interstellar travel can be almost instantaneous. At other times there is a clear time lag (usually so that something can take place in transit).

The Force Awakens

I’ve seen a lot of positive and negative reaction to The Force Awakens. I think it’s necessary to see this in context. The Force Awakens is the first act in a trilogy. The role of The Force Awakens is to set the scene and introduce some new characters. Unlike most movies we see, the producers of the Star Wars franchise know absolutely that they will get funding for three movies to tell the whole story. This changes their approach.

Still from Star Wars VII - The Force Awakens (c) Lucasfilm 2015
Still from Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens (c) Lucasfilm 2015

There is a watchable standalone move in The Force Awakens. It is the search for the missing Luke Skywalker. If you haven’t seen any of the other Star Wars movies then it will probably work for you. However that’s not the target audience. There’s a lot in there that nods to the earlier movies. Some of it is overt, like Han Solo becoming a legend. Other bits are in the background, like the crowds in the scene at Maz Kanata’s castle.

Things I liked in The Force Awakens

Avoiding spoilers here’s what I liked about The Force Awakens:

  • The lead character (Rey) is a girl
  • Kylo Ren (the main antagonist) is conflicted and tempted by the light side of the force (the opposite of the previous conflicts)
  • Han Solo is clearly legendary in his own lifetime
  • The trailers are full of mis-direction (I can’t explain this further without spoilers)
  • There are stormtrooper characters (although not used as well as they could have been)
  • There are Glaswegian gangsters in space
  • The Force Awakens has the visual feel and spectacle of the other Star Wars movies