It’s very rare to find a film that can generate the kind of buzz that the new Star Wars film has done, and live up to it. The Force Awakens not only does this but far surpasses it to deliver the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back.
JJ Abrams has masterfully breathed new life into this sleeping giant of a film franchise, with an action packed thrill ride that will leave fans of the series in awe, while also providing plenty of entertainment for nebies. From the opening shot, paying homage to the brilliant opening of the original Star Wars, to the final scene, this is a film made with all the care and emotion that the prequels lacked.
The plot is all about the attempts to find Luke Skywalker, who has vanished, as the sinister First Order and the Resistance, led by the now General Leia Organa, seek him out. One of Leia’s best pilots, Poe Dameron obtains a map, giving a clue as to Luke’s whereabouts but is captured by First Order forces led by Kylo Ren, but not before hiding the map in his droid BB-8.
From here, we’re introduced to the new cast of characters the play out this latest Star Wars adventure: Storm Trooper-turned-good Finn, scavenger Rey who is holding out for the return of her family who left her stranded as an infant and General Hux, the commander of the First Order’s new breed of Storm Troopers. Along the adventure, we’re reunited with old friends; Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia and a few other appearances from familiar faces.
Despite the reservations about the return of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher to the series, their characters never feel overbearing against the new cast. Ford is certainly no spring chicken, but he’s more than capable of stepping back into the role of Han Solo when supported by a strong story and cast. His age doesn’t hold the film back in the same way as it did in his return to the Indiana Jones series.
Each of our new characters is given ample time on screen to develop, and each are a truly wonderful addition to the series. John Boyega’s Finn shows more charisma in the first 10 minutes of the movie than any character ever did in the entirety of the prequel trilogy.
Rey, played by newcomer Daisey Ridley, Finn, played by John Boyega, and Poe, Oscar Isaac’s character, endear themselves to the audience within their first couple of moments on screen. Whether it’s Finn’s turn of conscience when faced with the reality of being a part of an evil organisation, Rey’s struggle for survival by herself as a scavenger or Poe simply flying around being cool, each character establishes who they are immediately and allows the audience to form a connection and relate to them instantly.
Then, there are the two new stars of the show: BB-8 and Kylo Ren. BB-8 is every bit as wonderfully charming as R2-D2 and C3PO if not even more so. The search for a droid containing crucial information might be an overly familiar story to Star Wars fans, but when BB-8 zips around the screen in such joyful manner, it’s impossible to complain about giving him as much screen time as possible.
Kylo Ren, on the other hand, establishes himself as one of the most brilliantly intriguing villains the Star Wars saga has ever produced. The level of depth to this character stretches far beyond an evil-doer in a mask: this is clearly a divided and tortured character – for reasons that can’t be explained without going into spoiler territory.
Even Darth Vader can’t hold a candle to Kylo Ren’s twisted development. And while clearly not the imposing force that Vader was, he is still quite formidable, and has several highlights throughout the film.
JJ Abrams has hit upon the perfect blend of old and new at his first crack. We are slowly drip fed the moments of nostalgia, from the crucial to the trivial, from first scene to last. The Millennium Falcon shows up still glorious in all of her faults, Han and Chewie recount adventures of old, a cantina band plays away in the background: each one of these moments brings a smile to the face, and are spread out across the film, while the new characters, locations and plot points unfold before us.
Each one of these nostalgia bursts feels more like a tribute to the originals than the cold exploitation that was rife through the prequels. There is no pointless shoe-horning of characters into scenes that don’t make sense – everything feels like it’s in the exact right place.
Not only does The Force Awakens avoid the mistakes that befell the last three installments but it actively seeks to fix some of them. Battles feel real and are emotionally engaging, characters are realistic and behave like real people; there’s none of the highly choreographed fights that felt like watching people hit each other with glow sticks in a video game.
Most importantly though, The Force Awakens restores the one thing entirely absent from the prequels: fun. Poe sarcastically quips “do you talk first or do I talk first” when Kylo Ren approaches him for the first time, Finn and Rey share several genuinely fun moments as they struggle to get to grips with the Millennium Falcon, and of course BB-8 provides us with some truly laugh out loud moments.
Fans can breathe a massive sigh of relief; JJ Abrams has knocked it out of the park at the first attempt and before hype for this movie can even begin to die down, anticipation for the next will begin. The Force is very much awake.