(Yes, this post is completely spoiler free.)
As the title might suggest, I went to the midnight release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It released early down here in Australia, 17 hours ahead of the US.
And my verdict?
It was okay.
Actually no. It was world-shattering amazing.
They took everything that makes the Star Wars so unique – the grandness, the mystery, the action, the heroism, the cheeky dialogue – and wrapped in up in a bundle of nostalgia and classic space opera and tied it up with a bow made up of a 21st century cinematic slickness.
They actually pulled it off. They did the impossible.
It was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had. Complete with an atmosphere that loved Star Wars, loved science-fiction. The audience broke into applause multiple times through the film. The vibe alone was worth it. People cheered, waved their lightsabers, and donned crazy cosplay for a one-time experience. 10 years ago now (has it been that long?) my dad took me to this exact cinema to see Revenge of the Sith when it came out. The experience stuck with me then and this one will stick with me now for a long, long time.
The film itself scrapes perfection. Every scene is so choked full of witty banter, strong character development, rich worldbuilding and slick action that it’s almost like being on a rollercoaster.The visuals themselves are nothing less than stunning. You could take almost every shot from the film and frame it as a painting. It’s concept-art come to life, bursting with liquid colours that oozed out of the screen like crystals.
The experience was almost ruined by the two guys in front of me. The screen was literally sandwiched between their heads (we were sitting upstairs and far back) and it was grating at me. My dad had to get up and stand (his knee was giving him trouble) so I swapped for his seat and all was resolved. But obviously that’s just whining about the rough edges on a very delicious pastry.
One of the film’s greatest strengths, I think, was it’s casting. They took one of the biggest films ever created and put non-American, small time actors in leading roles. People like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega and Adam Driver are barely known in mainstream Hollywood, and putting them in major roles alongside Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher does no end of good. They put guys like Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian from the Raid films (Indonesia action films that likely almost no one in the mainstream has seen, even if they are somewhat popular) on screen in front of what’s probably billions of people. They were focused on bringing in fresh faces and it worked. They could have gone the easy route and made the film stuffed full of an all-star cast, but they did not. They took a risk and put non-American, foreign actors on the front cover of what’s probably the biggest film this side of the decade. There’s going to be some new household names very soon, and it’s marvelous that Star Wars gave these actors the opportunity.
And as someone who works in media and arts, I know how hard it is to try and get noticed. It’s not easy for Americans, and it’s five times as hard for anyone who doesn’t live in the States, or an English speaking country. I can only imagine how people like Iko Uwais felt when they learned they were going to be in a Star Wars movie.
Two hours passed in minutes. There’s no flak, no stupid politics, no dry dialogue, no inane bumbling characters. There’s just a world as rich and diverse and delicious as you like, full of characters we want to travel to the edges of the universe with. And I have no doubt that’s exactly what the future films will continue to do. It’s an achievement in writing, in visuals, in pacing, and plain ol’ cinematic goodness.
But now? It’s edging towards 4am and it’s time for me to go to sleep.
But suffice to say: get off your arse and go see it. No, you don’t have an excuse. Just do it.