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Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Ten things we loved about the new movie (and a few we didn’t)

SPOILER WARNING First review: Huge fun and hugely derivativeEarly reviews say original magic restoredThe n from the original Star WarsM rating is confusing for parents

The opening crawl

It’s tough to argue with something that has become a cultural touchstone. There was applause for “Star Wars” but when the words “Episode VII” appeared it was elevated to a roar. It was exhilarating. And even illuminating. Let’s be honest: we haven’t just been waiting 30 years for a Star Wars film, we’ve been waiting 30 years for a good Star Wars film.

The graveyard of ships

Jakku’s desert was littered with relics from Star Wars history: huge star destroyers, reduced to shells, left for scavengers to disassemble. Somewhere in the wasteland of wrecks there was an AT-AT walker. It delivered a powerful aesthetic for the film’s opening act, but it also delivered a powerful metaphor about the present and its relationship with the past.

Maz Kanata is basically Yoda, but way cooler

Here’s the thing: love the little green guy, but he was a bit of a muppet. And then, in the prequels, he was reduced to a special effect. Maz Kanata, very much the latter, seems somehow to be neither, and for that we must thank the brilliant Lupita N’yongo who imbues her with ancient physicality and profound wisdom. More of her, please.

Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. Photo: Supplied

Kylo Ren is a truly complex villain

And perhaps more complex a villain than we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. Not hard when you consider his forebears were an old man whose dialogue span was once (accurately) summed up with the words “something, something, something, dark side” and a guy with asthma and a penchant for party masks. Kylo Ren is one wrecked up little bad guy. We love him.

Rey is a truly complex heroine

And perhaps more complex a heroine than we’ve ever seen in Star Wars. This is one lady who neither likes, nor needs, her hand held. No kisses for good luck here, nor does she need a farm boy to swing her to safety. She’s graceful but strong, scaling wrecks (and Starkiller Bases) with ease. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is tasked with a great deal in The Force Awakens and she steps up to the task with brilliance. She’s a star.

And yet it’s still packed with laughs

That fact alone places this film more closely to the original trilogy than any of its overly-worthy but ultimately hollow prequels. There are gags here. Lots of them, thank you C-3P0, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. There are lines played for laughs. And lovely light moments. It takes a moment, having been through three prequels, to remember that such light banter was once threaded through these films.

And lots of nostalgia

Old wrecked ships. Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber – the one Obi-Wan gave to Luke, back in 1977. Jokes about the Kessel run. And about never telling Han Solo the odds. They’re throwaway lines, but to the finely-tuned ear, they sing a sweet melody that is now three decades old. It’s all chewy, sticky, sweet nostalgia for a generation of kiddies who grew up on this stuff.

Carrie Fisher is back as Leia. Photo: Supplied

General Leia Organa

​From the moment she steps into the frame, there is little doubt no character is more central to the Star Wars narrative than resistance General (nee Princess) Leia Organa. There’s an emotional load that is difficult to discuss without spoiling the story, but Leia, seemingly with the weight of the world on her shoulders, rises to the occasion. Side note: Carrie Fisher was right, the baboon bum hair is truly dire.

Captain Phasma was truly awesome

But she wasn’t on screen for nearly long enough. Not by half. Okay, so the chrome plated stormtrooper armour looked awfully gimmicky, but even behind that, and staggeringly never showing her face, Gwendoline Christie owned every film frame she occupied. More, more, more, more.

“Come father, let us embrace at last.”

Not since John Boorman’s Excalibur fused Arthur and Mordred in a fatal embrace has there been a moment quite so impactful as the one we basically can’t discuss here. For a true Star Wars fan it is, to be honest, far less surprising than it might seem. Not expected, but anticipated as the moment approaches. And it leaves our villain not with the clarity he hoped it would give him, but rather with a conscience more deeply wrecked than ever before.   …. and five that left us scratching our heads.

The Millennium Falcon … whaa?

Okay, so we buy that all these folks are miserable on the planet Jakuu with no escape from their dreary lives. But the Millennium Falcon happens to be parked in a no-standing zone waiting for someone to hop on? Even in the Star Wars universe, where it seemed perfectly sensible to hide Darth Vader’s son, on his home planet, with relatives, and using his own surname, that might be a bit of a stretch.

The Starkiller Base

Thirty years to build and 30 minutes to take out – it’s a recurring theme in Imperial military architecture. If it wasn’t already somewhat improbable they seem to bang out these planet-sized space stations like tea cosies, they then seem to drop ’em like Lego. The Death Star seemed like a push to build in a couple of decades, but 30 years for the Starkiller Base?

Supreme Commander Snoke

So, he was supposed to be a hologram, not a giant man on a chair, only he didn’t look awfully hologram-y. And he looked a touch too CGI, the net effect of which is that he looked more like a guest star from Star Wars Rebels rather than a proper villain. The trick with motion capture is that you shouldn’t spend the whole time you’re looking at it, knowing that you’re looking at it.

R2-D2 in “sleep mode”

Come on, really? While everyone is running themselves ragged, the little guy is having a snooze and, only at the end, decides to switch himself on and offer up the piece of the puzzle that seemed to keep everyone else busy for most of the movie? Someone dock his pay.

Luke Skywalker’s expression

The first sentence of the opening crawl – “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” – made a promise to the audience that had to be fulfilled, but what was with that look when the venerable Jedi knight finally made an appearance? There’s a man who was not happy the galaxy has come knocking on his temple door.

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