December 23, 2015

More is more

Star Wars: Episode 7 – The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams, 2015). The new Star Wars blurs the lines that would normally separate a reboot from a remake from a sequel, which makes it nearly as forward-looking as the George Lucas original was in 1977, despite its appearance of looking backwards. Lucas made the old new again; in a more narrow sense, so does Abrams in an ingeniously pitched film that is skilfully designed to disappoint no one. When it quotes the originals, it does so with a knowing wit, and when it coins fresh dialogue, it often joins us in commenting on the wonders we are seeing or the new chance we are getting (“It’s true. All of it.” “I can't believe we’re really doing this.” “Don’t stare ... at any of it.”) The story and visuals are clear and simple and the performances by the franchise’s newcomers – Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac – are powerful and compelling, which is pretty much the exact reverse of the prequels, where the images were cluttered and actors rarely seemed to be in the same galaxy as each other, let alone the same room (with the exception of Ian McDiarmid, who has never got enough credit). There is pastiche and then there is revising history: it’s hard not to imagine that Abrams and writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt are not only remaking the original, they are doing an even more audacious thing, which is to correct one of the prequels’ most notable flaws. What is Driver’s Kylo Ren but the petulant Anakin Skywalker done right?