Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega & Oscar Issac
Synopsis: Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
Rating: 12A Duration: 135 minutes Release date: 17 December (UK)
Forgive me if I’ve used this line somewhere else before, but never has a film review been so utterly pointless. Not just this fine review you are reading now, but anyone and everyone’s views simply do not matter. People will see The Force Awakens whether it gets one star or five, audiences will simply not give a shit because, well its Star Wars and they will see it regardless. That being said, The Force Awakens is everything you wanted it to be and will rekindle your love of film like no other can.
Picking up 30 years after Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens reveals a new threat to the galaxy in the form of the First Order who have risen from the ashes of the Empire. Standing in their way now, as before, is the Resistance, who are led by General Leia Organa (Carry Fisher) and who are searching for long lost Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Helping in the search for Luke is pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his soon to be allies Finn (John Boyega) a former Stormtooper and Rey (Daisy Ridley) a scavenger from the planet Jakku.
The task before The Force Awakens is one so huge that it almost seems like it is destined to fail. Star Wars has an army of fans that spans all the way back to 1977 and with that comes a mountains’ worth of expectations, meaning the film dare not fail. Audiences will still remember the disappointment that followed George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, so it’s only fair that there is a level of scepticism here. It’s also no wonder that it took producer Kathleen Kennedy two attempts to lure director J.J. Abrams away from Star Trek and take the helm here.
Abrams, one presumes, much like the films legion of fans, was so damn scared at the prospect of a new Star Wars film failing, that the burden felt like too much and he would rather not be known as the next guy who screwed up the biggest franchise in film history. This, of course, is all irrelevant now, because J.J. Abrams did accept, and he has created a film that caters to fans of the original trilogy while being accessible enough to new audiences.
The Force Awakens manages to capture the magic of Episodes IV-VI, lighting a fire under anyone who has fond memories of growing up with these films and providing over two hours of cinematic bliss. It’s hard to imagine anyone walking away from The Force Awakens feeling anything less than utter joy at what they have witnessed. In a vein similar Jurassic World, there is a sense of wonder in The Force Awakens that feels like you are being sent back to your childhood.
Familiar characters like Han Solo, Leia and Chewbacca all appear, and they do so with a renewed magic in their eyes. Harrison Ford as Han Solo in particular seems re-energised here and his performance is filled with such vigour it feels like he has barely aged a day. While her screen-time is slightly less, Leia (Carrie Fisher) is clearly enjoying re-uniting with a much loved character. Of the new characters; John Boyega relishes his role as a Stormtrooper turned good who sees a chance to run from the First Order after an early scene that shows their true brutality.
Oscar Isaac is as enjoyable to watch as he always is, and cements himself as a talent that deserves all the plaudits sent his way. His young pilot has that roguish feel about him that made Han Solo so popular, but he never once mimics what has come before. The only thing that grates is the fact that we don’t see enough of him on-screen. Adam Driver could have easily been Darth Vader 2.0, but Driver puts in a performance that is menacing and extremely well balanced, highlighting Kylo Ren’s struggle between the light and the dark.
Domhall Gleeson largely plays second fiddle to Driver’s Ren and Andy Serkis’ Supreme Emperor Snoak, and spends little time on screen. The Force Awakens however, is the heroes film and Daisy Ridley’s Rey is excellent as the lonely scavenger thrown into a scenario she didn’t ask for. Ridley manages to showcase the heroism and fear that makes Rey so relatable and appealing.
From a technical standpoint, The Force Awakens is remarkable to look at. The blend between practical and visual effects is seamless, giving the film a look that is more A New Hope and less The Phantom Menace. Whereas the prequel trilogy had a shiny glow to everything, The Force Awakens feels dirty and used, and gives the effect that this universe has actually been lived in and is a million times better than the CGI shine that accompanied Lucas’ other trilogy.
From beginning to end, The Force Awakens feels like a film where everything just clicks. Critics will point to it being too similar in tone and story-beats to A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, to which they may be right, but it’s hard to critique a film that is just so much bloody fun. It’s mile better than Episodes I-III, and easily contends with Episodes IV and V as being the best in the series, which quite frankly, is bloody remarkable.