UK Release Date: 17th December 2015
Runtime: 135 minutes
Director: JJ Abrams
Writer: JJ Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac
Synopsis: The search for Luke Skywalker brings together an unlikely band of characters old and new to combat the evil First Order.
It’s fair to say that there hasn’t been a film as highly anticipated as the new Star Wars since… well, since the last new Star Wars trilogy kicked off in 1999. That didn’t turn out very well at all, but this time geek icon JJ Abrams was at the helm of the franchise, having already worked his magic to reboot Star Trek for a new generation. The result was always going to be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year, but the question remained as to whether it could live up to the beloved original films. Thankfully, the resulting film was satisfying in just about every way, whether you know a Jawa from a Tusken Raider or can’t tell which way up to hold a blaster.
Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has vanished and Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) secures the final part of the map to his location. He is captured by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) of the Empire-loving First Order. Rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) soon finds himself embroiled in the plans and, in his quest to destroy the First Order, he comes across mysterious scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and eventually Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who introduces the newcomers to a complex and dangerous world.
Everything about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is precision-tooled for maximum nostalgia. Where the prequel trilogy got bogged down in exposition and nonsense, Abrams’ film simply relaxes into a state of pure, joyous entertainment. The Force Awakens isn’t interested in carving its own path and is perfectly happy to trace the broad story strokes of the 1977 original film. But, in this most unique of contexts, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a band on their first reunion tour – new stuff is nice, but you want to see them play the hits.
| “How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.”
Much of the pre-release publicity for The Force Awakens focused on the fact that the stars of the franchise’s past would be returning. However, the film shouldn’t be underestimated for how successfully it introduces its new roster. Daisy Ridley, despite a wooden first few minutes, does a very solid job as Rey, whilst Attack the Block star John Boyega proves to be a remarkable comic talent as Finn. The dynamic between them is fascinating, with wannabe macho hero Finn repeatedly cut down by the fiercely independent Rey, who is a hell of a role model for the franchise’s female fans. Credit must also go to Oscar Isaac, who manages to be the most Harrison Ford performer in a film that actually features Harrison Ford.
More interesting than either, though, is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. In one film, Driver gives Ren the depth that the entire prequel trilogy failed to give Darth Vader. This isn’t a powerful ruler, but a petulant teenager rebelling in genuinely unsettling fashion. Other minions of the dark side, such as Domhnall Gleeson’s Nazi-esque General Hux and Gwendoline Christie’s much-heralded Captain Phasma, are underused here, but should resurface in future films.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of The Force Awakens is its self-awareness. Abrams, veteran scribe Larence Kasdan and everyone else involved seemingly realised early that this film was a completely unique case. This isn’t a film designed to hold up as a piece of art, but is merely a rollercoaster driven by the desire of the fans to return to the universe they loved as kids. Every thrilling dogfight and surprisingly visceral lightsaber war emerges from a single goal – to help the audience have as much fun as possible.
| “I was raised to do one thing… but I’ve got nothing to fight for.”
It’s possible that The Force Awakens won’t hold up nearly as well once the wave of nostalgia breaks. It’s built upon fan adoration and a filmmaker willing to remix and modernise. For now, however, it’s a deeply emotional cinematic experience that begs to be revisited over and over again.
Pop or Poop?
It’s with a collective sigh of relief that the world has embraced Star Wars: The Force Awakens as the sequel the original classics deserve.
Old characters get their victory lap and new characters emerge into the spotlight, all wrapped up by Abrams in an immensely satisfying explosion of pure, cinematic adrenaline.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.