STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (UK CERT: 12A)
Director: J.J Abrams
Music: John Williams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley
When it came to choosing a director for Star Wars: the Force Awakens, there really was only one choice: J.J Abrams. He had the difficult task of bringing the beloved Star Trek series back onto the big screen after numerous misfiring movies and did so with two near-perfect films.
With Episode VII of the sci-fi soap opera proving to be the most-hyped movie of the last decade, Abrams had a lot riding on this film. But does it live up to it all?
Following on from the events of Return of the Jedi, Episode VII follows the story of the First Order – born from the remains of the Empire destroyed at the end of the original trilogy. Taking them on is the Resistance, aka the good guys. That’s as much as I will say about the story, as anymore would be venturing dangerously close to spoiler territory.
A whole host of new characters join the old blood fans have been dying to see for years and the exceptional writing here means they blend seamlessly together without the need to delve into sickly nostalgia. That’s not to say there isn’t any nostalgia of course, but it’s tastefully referenced.
Of the newcomers, Daisy Ridley’s scavenger Rey and John Boyega’s disillusioned Stormtrooper Finn make the most impact and are commanding in each of their many action sequences; their acting prowess is impeccable considering their lack of experience in big blockbusters.
Elsewhere, the much-marketed ball droid BB-8 ends up becoming one of the most memorable characters to grace the series and is up there with R2-D2 and C-3P0 and will no doubt become a fan favourite as the new trilogy progresses.
It’s wonderful to see J.J Abrams grounding Star Wars with its roots. Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford certainly look different to how we remember them, but their characters still remain the feisty figures that we know and love, though a little more of Leia would be welcome throughout The Force Awakens.
Over on the dark side, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is a menacing presence. His many tantrums are a joy to watch and you can feel the evil radiating from him. He’s most definitely deserving of a place in the Star Wars Villain Hall of Fame and makes more of an impact than any of the bad guys in the prequel trilogy.
The special effects are absolutely sublime. Beautiful sets and stunning planets are brilliantly juxtaposed with intergalactic dogfights featuring some of the series’ much-loved ships and yes the Millennium Falcon looks as good as ever. The action sequences are filmed with such confidence that every single frame looks 100% convincing.
It’s impossible to know where Abrams has chosen to use CGI and when he has opted for good old practical effects. This is how film-making should be and The Force Awakens is all the better for it.
Unfortunately, the story is somewhat lacking. A near carbon-copy of what we saw in A New Hope means it’s easy to see where the film is going from the off and while this doesn’t detract from the overall viewing experience, it would have been nice to have something a little more original to really sink your teeth into.
Nevertheless, this is a film with a fantastic sense of humour. Abrams and writing partners Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have managed to inject some genuinely funny moments – most of them involving BB-8 – into the film’s 135 minute running time.
Overall, J.J Abrams need not worry. Star Wars: the Force Awakens has topped off a year that has included some incredible films and this is one to add to the list. With some of the best special effects ever put to the big screen and a cast of intriguing and memorable characters, Episode VII is the film that fans of the series deserve and there’s a lot for newcomers to enjoy too.
Does it live up to the hype? Not quite, but it’s a memorable movie nonetheless.
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J.J. Abrams directing the new Star Wars is a brilliant idea; the biggest problem with Star Wars is that George Lucas went bonkers around the time of Howard the Duck and J.J. Abrams’ only noteworthy talent is being able to mimic the styles and trappings of other people. It feels like a Star Wars film, but without Lucas actually being present to ruin everything. Hooray!
So Abrams’ job was to repackage Star Wars with a new coat of paint and set the groundwork for a new story, and, though not without some pretty big flaws, he pulls it off spectacularly. The plot is wholesale lifted from A New Hope, and though it has enough of a different feel to not be a total knock-off, people hoping for a whole new story will be sorely disappointed.
It works as a last hurrah for the older characters, particularly Harrison Ford’s excellent return as Han Solo, and the new characters are introduced and acted well, especially new villain Kylo Ren and not especially the boringly amazing-at-everything Rey. However the runtime is gruelling, it’s very predictable, and it’s so newcomer-unfriendly it might as well be written in Klingon. It’s got some warts, but yes; Star Wars is back.