Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Review

4/5
Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Review

Patience achieves more than force, as the old saying goes, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (12A) handsomely rewards the patience of those fans who have waited for decades for George Lucas & Co to fully recreate the magic of the original Star Wars (1977) and its trailblazing sequels.

The story opens 30 years on from the events of Return of the Jedi (1983), when the rebels, led by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), scored a notable victory over the Empire in destroying the second Death Star.

In the interim, however, the malign First Order — led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) — has dedicated itself to wiping out the resistance and the still embryonic Republic.

Desperate to discover the whereabouts of the self-exiled Skywalker, fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) embarks on a secret mission to the planet Jakku, where a young scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), proves herself a rather remarkable young woman.

Written by Lawrence Kasdan, Michael Arndt, and JJ Abrams, with Abrams directing, The Force Awakens is both a loving homage and vibrant reboot — Abrams, who previously proved himself no slouch at space opera with his Star Trek reboots, is obviously a fan of the Star Wars franchise, and delights in sly, knowing touches that will please older fans.

Indeed, there’s a comforting familiarity to The Force Awakens which owes as much to Abrams adhering to the tried-and-tested formula, and broad plot-lines, as it does with the return of old favourites such as Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

That said, there’s plenty that’s new too, with the robot BB8 an endearing replacement for R2D2, some eye-catching new hardware (including a rather impressive broadsword-style lightsabre), and — most impressive of all — a centre-stage role for a female character, an opportunity Daisy Ridley grabs with both hands as Rey scraps and quips her way towards her destiny, in the process creating one of the most dynamic female sci-fi characters since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in the Alien movies.

She gets plenty of strong support from the huge cast, with Domhnall Gleeson hilariously villainous as General Hux and John Boyega entertaining as a highly unusual stormtrooper, although Harrison Ford steals virtually every scene he’s in with his cranky, aging, but still timeless take on Han Solo.

Abrams has crafted a film that is even more epic in scale than the previous Star Wars offerings but, even though it clocks in at just over two hours in length, the movie fairly rattles through a relentless succession of battles, lightsabre duels, cataclysmic explosions and reversals of fortune.

Crucially, Abrams still finds room for plenty of the humour — in-jokes, pratfalls, farce — that was sadly lacking in the most recent offerings in the franchise.

Overall, then, The Force Awakens is a stylish triumph: An action-packed crowd-pleaser that will wow all the existing fans by staying true to the Star Wars mythology, while also opening up that universe to a whole new generation.

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