So, just finished Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Things I would still see as a missed opportunity that cannot now ever be fixed: For me those three characters of Luke, Han and Leia plus Chewie and the droids work best together. That’s where the magic of the first films came to life for me. For all the sequels ran the characters on different tracks, each still brought them back together as much they could. This opening shot renders that impossible, never mind that Fisher then died last year. But, all things considered? That’s about it! Which is far, far fewer complaints than I expected to have given its reputation. What reputation might that be? That it’s a lazy, quick OT rehash. I’d grant that there’s definitely a thematic influence present but, a lot of the time? I was having to do an awful lot of work to directly link it to ANH and, after the first half hour being sufficiently different, I gave up and opted instead to just enjoy the movie. Moving onto other charges - that the Republic gets wiped out and we know nothing of it. In terms of what TFA gives the viewer, this’d be accurate. If I take a wider view and factor in the likes of the Bloodline and Aftermath trilogy books, I pretty much know what the Republic is doing and why. If anything it amps up the tragic element of it. Could they have pre-emptively stopped the Starkiller? My answer two years ago was no and the film only emphasises that. So, no change. That the Empire would keep on building superweapons despite losing two Death Stars is entirely plausible and credible. They were always about fear and control and their First Order successors simply think taking that further is the way to go. Although, again, knowing the partial origins of the First Order helps when watching the film,as it didn’t just come out of nowhere. Knowing of the Battle of Jakku gives a different cast to the sequences on Jakku, of crashed Star Destroyers and ship graveyards. I really liked the aesthetics of those scenes and flying the Falcon through an engine section of the Super Star Destroyer Ravager topped it nicely. The next charge: Wiping out the new Jedi order. This one is far more sustained, there’s only the barest answers given as to what happened and it does feel a bit of swizz. Han and Leia - Seeing the film alone makes this one look worse than it is. Best estimates are it all goes horribly wrong about five years before the film. The way Bloodline sketches their relationship also takes the edge off the separation quite a bit too. I wouldn’t have bought Han simply returning to smuggling as, contrary to his claims, he was crap at it. Of far more interest is that Han Solo, once arch-cynic of all things Force-related, no longer is. The idea of Luke having buggered off to who knows where, probably following the call of the Force, works for me. Luke got to Dagobah that way, he blew the Death Star on a hunch, all in all it’s got a pretty good track record as far as Luke’s concerned. Next, Phasma. Why did she power down the shields of Starkiller Base? By reputation, this was one of the big ‘huh?’ moments of the film. One answer, likely to be the official one, is that Phasma isn’t actually loyal to the First Order, she’s only loyal to herself and, in that respect, her actions make perfect sense. Die for the First Order or screw it over and save yourself? It’s an easy decision for Phasma. Of course, the info I’m drawing on for this didn’t exist until about three months ago! The new characters then - Poe I enjoy a lot and it’s pretty clear Isaacs is having a ball with the role. That sense is pretty much infectious. Rey I found to be better than expected, the only cringeworthy section were the ‘don’t hold my hand’ scenes which were far, far too clunky. It was odd that Finn went to do that too, unless the First Order conditioning includes a ‘women, know your limits’ bit. Finn I enjoyed too - the idea of these three carrying Episode 9 on their own works. Oh yeah and BB-8, the droid that sold a thousand pluses, against whose cuteness factor there is no defence. Yeah, I gave in too. Onto the villains - Snoke, not really much to go on, save that he’s clearly the puppetmaster. Hux. Ah, General Hux, you total ****-up. Not that you really had a chance to be anything but a total ****-up. The idea of there being a vast military organisation, led by those idolising the Empire, an organisation they are far too young to possibly have any accurate memory of, is quite intriguing. They’re all pledging their service to a phantom, well, save Phasma. Onto Kylo - or, more accurately for me, the Taserface of TFA. I know I’m supposed to find it terrifying when Kylo is told Rey escaped, but him going nuts on a computer bank was instead utterly hilarious. Ditto later, on Starkiller Base, he’s going nuts because Rey’s legged it again, calling for guards and it shifts to the corridor outside, two stormtroopers heading his way, they hear him and do a quick 180! It’s like: You going to him? Nope, you goin? Nope, let’s just **** off this way. Even the more serious sequences, like him freezing Poe’s blaster bolt in mid-air or killing Tekka or torturing Poe or Rey, killing Han and the final duel - he’s a total mess, he really is. I pretty much enjoyed the way they did all this. Seeing Rogue One last year showed up the sheer fun and excitement that is SW being done with all the new toys EFX crews now have. A lot can be said about Abrams, that he’s too fond of setting up mysteries, or likes being too secretive, but it can’t be denied there’s a real nice visual flair to TFA. There’s some very smart aesthetics in this film, all very deliberate choices. Hell, just that image of TIEs flying out of the sun on Jakku gave birth to a SW Top Gun mash-up vid. TLJ might prove to be more of a challenge, but that’s for Thursday.