I’ve never watched a Star Wars film. Ever. Until yesterday, when I went to see Episode 7, The Force Awakens. As none of my family have been particularly besotted by it, I actually knew nothing of the story either. So, would I understand the plot? Would I be captivated by the story? Wowed by the special effects? Here’s how my Star Wars initiation went:
I watched the film at the cinema with friends who had all seen at least some other Episodes. I instructed them to not explain the story to me, I wanted to see how much I understood on my own. (Risky strategy as asking for explanations during films is pretty standard for me at the best of times.) Being at the cinema was an important element – I guessed from sighs and general audience reaction when a character was well known.
The film began with a written explanation. We were introduced to a character, Luke Skywalker. Not, I felt, the most original of names. If I was writing a film and suggested the space man was to be called Ben Moonhopper or Peter Starjumper, I think it would be rejected. Husband was not receptive to this pearl of wisdom.
We then saw what appeared to be giant Playmobil men in a spaceship. I always enjoyed my children playing with Playmobil, so could relate to the decision to include them in a film. They were all white and all identical, which was somewhat confusing until one helpfully put a bloody handprint on his head, thus differentiating himself from the others.
Another character was a giant marble with a sliding head who made squeaky farting noises. The audience seemed to warm to him.
There were lots of people in tatty clothes. I did feel there was a mismatch between the technology needed to produce spaceships and intelligent robots and the technology used in clothing manufacturing. Perhaps it was a fashion statement.
We then met an actor who I didn’t recognise, who had Rufus Sewell eyes (good for acting tension, fear and discomfort during torture scenes. Not someone you would leave to care for small children.)
One of the Playmobil white men removed his helmet, which was a surprise. There was a man inside. He was rather sweaty so I’m thinking the design of Playmobil suits was perhaps not a good one for general use. Also not sure how one would launder them. Husband told me this was irrelevant and would I please be quiet and just watch film. In fact, all the Playmobil men had real people inside them. I am not sure why they wanted to look identical. It would be good to wear on the school run when you had just rolled out of bed.
The next character we met was a girl (dressed in bandages – I really did not get the costume ideas.) She bought a powder that she could add to water and heat and it bubbled up into something that looked like bread. This was intensely interesting. I would LOVE cooking dinners to be that easy.
Although the clothes were rubbish, all the hairstyles were very complicated. Maybe costume budget got used up on hairspray. And sand – there was a lot of sand.
The girl who was the clever cook could also speak lots of languages, including ‘machine’. As well as American and Scottish (particularly tricky one I find.)
The film had lots of machines. Lots of loud wind instrument music (actually, the music throughout was excellent. Well done Mr Williams.) There was lots of sand. Lots of explosions. Lots of props that I recognised from toyshops and fast-food giveaways over the last forty years. There was some good dry humour, some impressive chase scenes and a lot of hair spray.
I was then completely confused when Indiana Jones turned up. Very unexpected. He still has very good hair (which is essential for a Star Wars actor.) No hat or whip but still wore a leather jacket. Another actor also pointed out the jacket. He is a very good actor, I warmed to his character immediately (perhaps because he was the only one I recognised.) Actually, connecting with the characters was something I found difficult. I never felt like I knew them, so didn’t really care if they got blown up. He arrived with a giant teddy/extremely hairy man who had a speech disorder. I never really understood if he came from a planet of hairy beings, was a pet or they were just being inventive with costume ideas.
For most of the film the scenery was fairly stark. There were plants in one bit, when they turned up at a futuristic Hogwarts but mostly it was machines and sand. It didn’t look a very comfortable place to live.
There was enough explanation for me to mostly follow what was happening, though some of the story only made sense if you have seen previous episodes. I knew when a character from a previous film had popped up by the audience reaction and I could tell when something important was happening because the music changed from wind instruments to strings, but there weren’t many clues for the uninitiated in the script. I also got confused by what was spaceship and what was planet. I would see a character enter what was clearly a spacecraft, then when they left it they were in a snow covered forest on a planet.
The plot followed the same basic theme of most other films : Good fighting Evil. There was an added element of The Force, which I never quite got to grips with. For most of the film I thought this was some kind of power that the evil chaps had but then later the good characters said, “May the force be with you.” I have heard this phrase quoted on television so I knew it was famous – I still have absolutely no idea what it means.
The film was well made, had some good special effects, lots of action, some clearly sad bits and happy bits. However, if you have not seen other episodes, there was no real connection and the emotion passed you by. I would say, if you are the other person in the world who has never seen a Star Wars film, watch some of the others first. This one did not really stand alone. You kind of HAVE to watch it because everyone else will but I don’t think it was ever intended to be watched in isolation. Either that or take a book to read……
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