Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy

Directed by: JJ Abrams

Starring: Daisy RidleyJohn BoyegaOscar Isaac, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver

I was initially a bit reluctant about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The first trailer didn’t thrill me as much as I’d expected it to, leaving me slightly cold. But around the second or third trailer, the “let it in” one, I was completely swept up in the hype – to the point where anything less than greatness would have crushed me. Thankfully, The Force Awakens doesn’t disappoint, simultaneously paying homage to the originals and setting up a whole new saga.

The story of new characters Rey, a scavenger on a desert world, and Finn, a former Stormtrooper, Episode VII calls back to the original trilogy but rarely gets too obsessed with creating parallels. Yes, like Luke, Rey is a young adult questioning her place in the universe, but Daisy Ridley brings a quiet vulnerability to her character that’s fascinating. A scared child is hidden underneath her outward bravado, a bravado which admittedly is justified, a child who just wants to find her family. Ridley is an affecting presence on screen, making it easy to grow attached to her character.star-wars-the-force-awakens-04John Boyega is an equally compelling character as Finn, having been ripped from his family at birth and forced to become a Stormtrooper. On his first mission he realises he can’t follow the gruesome orders of his commanders. He’s not a villain, but he’s also (at least initially) far from a hero. He’s a man who has followed orders his whole life and is now trying to discover who he is without them. This isn’t to say that Finn is a totally serious character, in fact he gives one of the funniest performances of the film, particularly when sharing the screen with Harrison Ford.

Speaking of Ford, while all three of the original heroes do return, Han is the only one to be given a significant amount of screen time, alongside his longtime friend Chewbacca. Ford appears to easily slot back into character as everyone’s favourite cantankerous smuggler, the mileage on him barely even noticeable.star-wars-the-force-awakens-06Kylo Ren is also a bend on an original trilogy character, an evil force user who isn’t exactly a Sith who worships Darth Vader, going so far as to emulate his image and voice. Kylo Ren has a childlike temper, which breaks at the slightest provocation. One great scene features two Stormtroopers walking down a corridor, hearing Ren smashing something to pieces with his lightsaber and smartly turning around and walking away. He is quite a terrifying villain but, similarly to Rey, this is just the surface and what he’s hiding is a truly great surprise.

Unfortunately Oscar Isaacs’s role as “the best pilot in the resistance” Poe Dameron is far smaller than I expected, the character disappearing for much of the film. Isaacs does a fine job of portraying Poe as a cocky individual who is inarguably the best pilot in the galaxy and knows it. However, we miss out on an opportunity to see what, if anything, exists underneath the cockiness. I have enjoyed Isaacs in every film I’ve seen him in, including this year’s stellar Ex Machina, and in his brief scenes Dameron is able to steal the show. I left the cinema wishing to know more about him and hope there will be an opportunity to explore the character in future films, prequel or otherwise.star-wars-the-force-awakens-07Of course, this being Star Wars a certain amount of fighting is to be expected and J.J. Abrams is able to create thrilling dogfights and ground combat alike. X-wing vs TIE fighter conflicts are as exhilarating to behold as ever, with Abrams adding a few new twists to keep things fresh. One sequence that shows the scenes from the first person perspective of an X-wing pilot is particularly captivating. Ground combat also feels perfectly in tune with the series, both loud and messy, capturing the grittiness of skirmishes such as the Battle of Endor. More than anything else in the film, dogfights and the Millennium Falcon in flight took me back to my childhood love of the original trilogy, watching ships destroy each other with awe.

Sadly the score by John Williams feels slightly uninspired. While the classic theme is still able to delight, none of the new motifs particularly stand out. It ends up feeling like music has mostly been reused from the original trilogy, whereas something new might have been welcome.

The Force Awakens is a return to form for the once great saga, washing away the bad taste of the prequels and bringing back the much-loved flavour of the classics. I can’t wait to see what Episode VIII brings and I’m sure to have watched this film several dozen times by then.

★★★★★

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