JJ Abrams (Mission: Impossible III, Star Trek) is the man of the moment and he deserves all the recognition he will get. The visionary director (and co-screenwriter, in this case with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt) has achieved what we all hoped he could with the reboot, or perhaps that should read refocus, of the Star Wars franchise.
We all know that the first three movies were mega and the next three were a pale imitation. In this, Episode VII, Abrams has remained true to the original (there is definitely a reverence there) and yet taken the story further, introducing a series of new characters. Favourites Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) are all back, Ford looking remarkably youthful.
Skywalker has gone missing and the forces of evil are conspiring to bring the galaxy to its knees. The grandson of Darth Vader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is out to continue his family’s dark legacy. Destruction is also on the mind of the ruthless General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who is vying for power with Kylo Ren.
The Force Awakens is set approximately 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. The new leads are Daisy Ridley, who plays the fearless, self-sufficient scavenger Rey. Her life changes when she meets Finn (John Boyega), a stormtrooper who is not at all comfortable with what he is being asked to do. Oscar Isaac is cast as crack Resistance fighter Poe Dameron, whose fate becomes entwined with Finn’s and Andy Serkis is Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren’s master. And what would any Star Wars movie be without the presence of the irrepressible Chewbacca (who is particularly prominent), C-3PO and R2-D2? The narrative also involves a new, cute, circular droid with a domed head named BB-8, who has an important role to play.
There is action and special effects aplenty, mixed with good humour. In fact this just may be the best humoured Star Wars of the lot of them. The screenwriters have managed to craft a credible bond between past and present. The script has credibility and authenticity – it feels right.
The opening night audience greeted the initial frames with wolf whistles. That is when three paragraphs of text appeared on screen against a familiar refrain, in the same style as that to which many of us were first introduced in 1977. John Williams’ strong and powerful score, too, has a familiar feel to it. Episode VII then is about substance, not just hype. Undoubtedly, the Force is with us.
Rated M, Star Wars: The Force Awakens scores an 8 out of 10.
Director: J. J. Abrams
Cast: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Max Von Sydow, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill
Release Date: 17 December 2015
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television