star warsUsually we find a movie with a tenuous link to the world of genomics to review for the magazine. But for our ACMG special edition, there was one cinematic event so important to all of us that we just couldn’t ignore it…

After the universally loathed Star Wars prequels trilogy, excitement for episode VII was high on the basis that it simply had to be better. Familiar faces were returning, no Jar Jar Binks…could J.J. Abrams give us the Star Wars experience we deserved as he managed with the Star Trek franchise?

The parallels are interesting, and in many ways Abrams does repeat the trick. He brings back popular characters and actors that were central to the success of the source material. His take on Star Trek reimagined those beloved characters based on three full seasons and a whole host of feature length movies. It worked because it gave the fans something fresh, but comfortingly familiar. So what of Star Wars?

At this point, I’d like to issue a spoilers warning. So if you’re that one person who still hasn’t seen it, get yourself out to the movie theatre and we’ll see you back here in a few hours.

The mantra for The Force Awakens seems similar: give the fans something they know but give it a fresh twist. Where Star Trek has a considerable back catalogue of plots to borrow from, Star Wars only really has the three originals. That doesn’t leave much scope to create something new with elements of the old. At its core, The Force Awakens is Star Wars: A New Hope. Unlikely heroes get thrown together in unlikely circumstances, the force is strong in one of them, they meet up with some rebels, they try to blow up a Death Star.

Unquestionably, The Force Awakens is exciting, thrilling, funny, emotional, beautifully filmed and fun. It’s a fantastic experience. Unfortunately, we’ve seen it all before. Is that a bad thing? Not entirely. For new audiences, this is a perfect introduction to what Star Wars is all about. For the seasoned fan, it’s quite literally the Star Wars we know and love.

The plot may be suspiciously familiar, but it clearly comes from a place of love and shows great attention to detail. From making sure that big aerial battles are cut with intense one-on-one battles on the ground, to ridiculous dissolves in the scene transitions – the technical design of this movie is unquestionably Star Wars. What makes this movie worth watching is what Abrams adds to that foundation. The writing is far better than what we’ve seen previously in the Star Wars cinematic cannon, and the visual set pieces are stunning.

If The Force Awakens serves to assure fans that we’re in safe hands, it is mission accomplished. Going forward, we need to see the series develop its own identity rather than continue as a tribute act. We’ve been introduced to some interesting characters, so let’s see them live out their own story.

Verdict: Great

This has absolutely everything we all wanted from a Star Wars movie. The only downside is that it didn’t give us much else or offer many genuine surprises.

Pros:

  • Great dialogue
  • Superb visuals
  • Admiral Akbar is back

Cons:

  • We’ve seen that plot before…
  • Surely by now the Empire should know that a Death Star isn’t the way to go?

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