It’s here. It’s actually finally here. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a product that began its journey in 1977 when a young and visionary filmmaker burst into film history with Star Wars, one of the greatest films ever made whose impact on the cinematic landscape is hard to understate. It was followed by one of the finest sequels ever and finished the trilogy on a fairly good note in 1983. It was a glorious time to be a Star Wars fan until one fateful day just before the turn of the millennium when there was a great disturbance in the force. It was as if millions of fan-boy voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. The Prequel trilogy was released and the less said about it the better. It’s been 38 years since the first Star Wars film, and 32 years since a decent one has come out, and that makes it all the more satisfying to announce that The Force Awakens is a spectacular homecoming, a return to form that is bound to satisfy fans both young and old with a return to a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Normally at this stage in a review there would be a basic plot synopsis and a brief outline of characters and actors, but in the current climate the general public looks upon anyone who posts any kind of Star Wars spoiler with the same amount of respect that it gives to Martin Bryant, so the following will be as spoiler-free as possible. Set thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, a new evil has arisen from the remnants of the Empire in the form of The New Order, a fascistic military force wanting to overthrow the Republic and build the Empire anew. Against them stand the Resistance backed by the Galactic Republic and searching desperately for the last Jedi Knight who vanished long ago.
The term ‘fan-service’ doesn’t come close to describing The Force Awakens, from the imagery to the characters to the plot, everything seems to been constructed to dampen any doubts over whether the new films were just Disney’s attempt to cash in on their sizeable purchase. This was a film made by a team of true Star Wars fans and it shows. The best thing about Force Awakens is that it actually feels like a Star Wars film, it captures that sense of hope, adventure and classic story telling that made the series so damn good in the first place, and uses this film as a spring board to jump into a new trilogy arc that already looks fascinating. This isn’t to say that all it does is harvest from already sown ground. Some parts of it do straddle the line between homage and copy but on the whole this is the film that was promised – a return to the sacred ground of the original films. To put it another way, we’ve heard this song before, but the band playing it is doing a very good cover version.
As we all know, the original cast have returned and seeing them back in character is as satisfying as the trailers hinted at. The scene of Han and Chewie boarding the falcon for the first time drew a round of applause in my screening, and the return of one major character in the final act made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The new batch of characters that include Daisy Ridley’s Rey, John Boyega’s Finn and Oscar Isaac’s Poe are as good as could be hoped for, and the actors bring them to life with pleasure. Ridley was an amazing find and will surely be the crush of every young boy just like Carrie Fisher was to the previous generation. The other great introduction is BB-8, the film’s answer to R2-D2, one of the most lovable robots ever put to screen who will surely become as iconic as his counterpart.
The only characters that are a little disappointing are the new villains. Gwendoline Christie is really underused as Captain Phasma and Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux is little more than a screaming military type. However, Gleeson’s slightly over-the-top performance seems to be the way he was directed and it is kind of fun. Adam Driver clearly gives it his all as Kylo Ren, but the result is a little opaque – but to go further into that would be dangerously close to a spoiler ravine and I’ve got a feeling that most of it will be addressed in the new two films.
It must have been a daunting task to try to salvage Star Wars from the pit of blistering hot nerd-rage that still lingers from the Prequel trilogy, but J.J. Abrams has done it. He actually pulled it off. Star Wars: The Force Awakens isn’t quite the flawless masterpiece that we pined for in our more optimistic moments, but it’s a pleasure to be able to say: for fans young and old, casual to hard-core, this is the film we’ve all been waiting and hoping for.
Congratulations J.J. Abrams, you did it. The force will be with you, always.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in cinemas from 17th December through Disney.