Starring John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Issac, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels, Andy Serkis & Mark Hamill
Directed by J.J Abrams
I’m looking over my last couple of film reviews. Not to stroke my ego but because it’s been a long time between drinks. As I write this I’m finding settling back in to old habits rather tough. No matter what order I place the words I just can’t recapture the magic.
Maybe I left things a little too long before returning, but this seemed like the most logical (and advantageous) time to slip back in. Plus, with the struggle I’m going through it would’ve been unwise to leave things any longer.
Then there are some who find the transition seamless. It’s almost as if Star Wars: The Force Awakens is laughing at me with its effortless return to form. But The Force Awakens represents more than just a film series pulling itself back together. For this instalment is no regular sequel or reboot. It’s a continuation of a film that rests its laurels on the legacy of the original from which it follows. The legacyquel. Or, you know, Hollywood just recycling old cash cows.
It’s really nothing new, but it has a fancy name, so do we feign ignorance and take it as a new occurrence? I’m conflicted. I’d be lying if I said I thought the term wasn’t just to validate what is a total lack of originality. It’s a buzzword giving filmgoers a reason to watch these films. Fortunately the quality of releases that fall under the legacyquel banner are undeniably good. So, with a little shame, I’m willing to let the matter slide.
What works so well is their temperament. The urge to litter proceedings with all the usual suspects must be irresistible, but there are no familiar faces in The Force Awakens until well into the second act. Director Abrams gives the new guard all the room they need to make this film their own. And the four leads in Boyega, Ridley, Driver and in particular Isaac, more than rise to the occasion.
Of course Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew were going to be needed eventually for the plot to unfold but thankfully Abrams keeps his cool. General Leia (Fisher) is the only other re-introduction that’s given any precedence. C3PO (Daniels) and R2D2 pop up simply to say hello. They’re all positioned perfectly and they give the newbies the support they need without cramping their style.
But while Abrams allows his creations to roam free they are built on a bed of past references. In fact the basis of the plot is essentially a carbon copy of one we’ve seen before. A droid with sensitive information aids an insurgence against a dictatorial militia. Meanwhile a man with extraordinary powers speaks from behind a mask and a supposed average person learns of the strength they possess. Oh, and there’s a gigantic, planet-sized super weapon.
This, along with the second act blues the film admittedly goes through, is dissatisfying. However the strength of what original concepts there are make it worth disregarding. And then again it is what made the original Star Wars work. In this instance lightning strikes twice.
Nonetheless it’s received some rave reviews, and it’s not getting a free pass for being Star Wars. Belonging to probably the greatest film series of all time makes it that much harder. As history will tell, if the fanatics didn’t take to it we were going to hear about it. The comparisons were inevitable, so rather the film embraces its origins. Thankfully it worked.
There will be a time when the legacyquel is used to justify any half-arsed attempt to rehash old ideas, but The Force Awakens hasn’t come along too late. In fact this could very well signal the legacyquel coming to the fore, and be great sign of what’s to come.
And so begins the era of the legacyquel.