Paul Howard on Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The creator of Ross O'Carroll Kelly is a Star Wars fanatic, so once he'd had time to digest the latest instalment of the epic franchise, we checked in to see what he made of it

If you're planning on catching The Force Awakens this weekend, then proceed with caution; there's a spoiler or two here...

"You're not just dealing with fans, but superfans. I was on radio the other day with the guy who runs the Star Wars religion. Ray D'Arcy asked him where he was watching the movie, and without a hint of irony he said he couldn't say, because he didn't want the paparazzi to follow him there. That's who you're dealing with..."

And while Paul Howard doesn't quite bring it to those levels, he's still an obsessive fan of the sci-fi series, block-buying 12 tickets for the midnight showing of The Force Awakens on Wednesday night. Not only that, but he admits to feeling some trepidation before seeing the film.

"I was nervous in the same way I would be before a big football match," he explains, "or something I was really invested in as a big sports fan."

Was it the crippling fear of another Jar Jar Binks situation?

"Something like that," he laughs. "I didn't hate the middle trilogy as much as many Star Wars fans did - but it wasn't Star Wars. There were some very good things, such as Darth Maul, who was a great villain. Then George Lucas made the same mistake he did with Boba Fett, killing him off unnecessarily, in a really facile way that didn't do the character justice. But there was just so much CGI, and then the absurdly complex back story of the Trade Federation. It was as bad as trying to understand Israel and Palestine; I'm still not all that sure which side I'm on."

Luckily, Paul reckons the approach for the new film is bang on.

"One of the things I love about this new movie is that they've dialled down the CGI. The first Star Wars film, from 1977, had better special effects than in the more recent ones, and JJ Abrams has reigned them in to exactly where they should be. It looks like those movies I fell in love with."

Indeed, there's more than a hint of the original trilogy on show, he says.

"There's so many echoes of the old films; you're looking to identify who's Han, who's Luke, who's Leia. I think they're very self-conscious; perhaps from the fear they sit down to make something new, and end up rewriting A New Hope. It's a sort of smiling wink to the original trilogy. But it's Han Solo's movie, and I can't stress that enough. It was shaping up to be a great movie, and then Han and Chewbacca show up, and suddenly there's a whole new energy - a narrative continuity from then to now."

Although there could well be a new Han Solo ready to usher in the new age.

"Poe Dameron is a fighter pilot, who could well be the new Han. Then again, he's missing for about an hour of the film, so it's hard to say. There's also Finn, who's a refusenik Stormtrooper; sort of a conscientious objector. There's shades of Han Solo in him too, because he's all about self-preservation, all about survival, and something of a reluctant hero."

Though its Daisy Ridley, as Rey, who stands out.

"Rey, for me, steals the show. She's obviously going to be the Luke Skywalker of this trilogy; she even dresses a little like him. She's a great character. It's also very interesting that the strongest character on the rebel side is a woman - I really like the fact they've done that."

Though not everything is to Paul's liking.

"The only thing that annoyed me was the introduction of another Death Star," he reveals. "It's the third one, and I think that's pushing it a bit too far. The plot was unfolding rather well, and I think it was a bit unnecessary. In Star Wars, and Return Of The Jedi, it was a tidy way to end things, with the David And Goliath-style battle, and they've done that again. That was the only thing that stuck in my throat."

And while it's still an overwhelmingly positive review, Paul knows at least one person he won't be inviting along to watch it this weekend.

"Ross wouldn't go near it," he grins. "Ross couldn't follow the plot of Frozen, so his chances of wrapping his head around a science-fiction movie are pretty much non-existent!"

 

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