Thirty years after some plucky rebels and a gang of Ewoks defeated the Evil Galactic Empire, the tales of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader have faded into legend. A new evil force in the form of The First Order threatens the peace of the galaxy and although the resistance led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher) search, they cannot find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who has vanished. When she hears of an old ally finding a clue to Skywalker’s whereabouts, Leia sends one of her best pilots, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to retrieve the information. It’s not long before Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and The First Order arrive to also retrieve the information, and when Dameron is captured, it is up to his droid BB-8 to keep the vital information safe, and get it back to the resistance.
It is hard to remember a film that was so talked about, hyped and secretive than Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and the day that fans get to see what has been done with our favourite cast of space opera characters since George Lucas removed his hands from the controls has finally arrived.
The cast, led by Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are almost universally strong in their roles. There are plenty of familiar faces and voices – Harrison Ford, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Carrie Fisher and Mark hamill – and tons of new ones for fans to fall in love with and theorise about, including Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron and plenty plenty more. Isaac brings humour and irreverence to his role, Daisy Ridley is filled with pluck and fight, Adam Driver is menacing and sets up some conflicting emotions for later films and John Boyega makes Finn a character who brave and strong. The only minor blip on the radar is Domhnall Gleeson who, despite a wonderful track record of strong performances in strong films, hams it up just a touch too much – if such a thing is possible.
Screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt wisely ignore the prequel films and keep the nostalgia trained on the original trilogy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings in the best of those films – the humour, the action and the emotion – then turns its attentions to the story at hand, with one eye on the future. There is plenty to laugh at here, with some of the dialogue being wonderfully cheeky, but sparse enough that things are not laboured to death. The Galactic Senate, this ain’t; things are done, not talked about, and this is what makes the film so thrilling.
Cinematographer Daniel Mindel may well be the MVP of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, with stunning shots of our world changed just enough to make them feel alien. Colours are rich, but scale really plays a part in the look of the film, with human and alien life often swallowed up by the vastness of the land and sky, giving a sense of just how huge this Star Wars universe really is. As well as this, since the original look of the franchise was designed in the 1970s, this is kept in this new sequel, giving the entire affair a delightful mix of retro-futurism and nostalgia. The effects for much of the film are practical, rather than CGI, and this gives the world a tangible, real feel, unlike the prequel movies.
As director, J.J. Abrams brings a sense of fun, nostalgia and adventure to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film clocks in at 135 minutes but, other than a slight lag somewhere in the middle, the film is well paced and filled with tension. The set pieces are thrilling and gripping, the dialogue never swamps the film and characters are given enough time to grow and develop, without this swallowing the film whole.
In all, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is exactly the film we have been waiting for since Return of the Jedi, and it is one that fans can truly be excited about. Other than this being a great Star Wars film, it is simply a great film; well paced, well written and beautifully shot. There are some lags in the middle, and some cast members are stronger than others, but the set pieces are thrilling and the set up for the rest of this new franchise are there. What more could we want?! The Force is strong with this one indeed.