Like the music to Jurassic Park, the Star Wars theme conjures up certain Proustian feelings when it’s heard. Sitting in the black of an IMAX theatre John Williams’ soaring score elicits a certain sense of nostalgia, combined with a sense of anticipation. Luckily this film finds the perfect balance between nostalgia and awe. It reminds us of the past but makes sure our eyes are firmly set on the future. It’s a movie for the child in all of us. I found myself smiling through every second of it.
Thirty years after the Death Star was blown up, Luke Skywalker has gone missing. During this time the First Order have risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire and their mission is to crush the resistance, led by General Leia Organa. The film focuses on Finn (Boyega) a former stormtrooper who unwittingly becomes involved in the resistance, when he meets Rey on Jakku, where she is living in the hope that her parents will return for her.
It is a credit to JJ Abrams that they have used practical effects so often in this film rather than overloading on the C.G.I. This film recaptures the magic that was lost in the prequels and goes back to simple storytelling, great characters and wondrous locations.
It also helps that this is possibly the funniest of all the Star Wars films. There are lots of nods to older films in which the damsel in distress is saved by the hero. These tropes are subverted through humorous lines like ‘I can run without you holding my hand’. The film even laughs at the people who take issue with Finn’s skin colour: ‘This is what resistance people look like. Well not all of us but some of us do’.
Harrison Ford threatens to steal every scene he’s in but it his chemistry with the two young stars that gives the film its energy. John Boyega is great as the playful Finn and a star is born in Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Such is the popularity of Star Wars that celebrities are happy to make cameos, no matter how small, from Simon Pegg’s turn as a greedy alien to Daniel Craig’s role as a weak-minded Stormtrooper.
Comparisons between this film and the original are inevitable but this film does so much more than merely replicate its predecessors. It builds on the universe, gives us a story to care about and a villain to truly despise. Adam Driver excels as the pernicious Kylo Ren.
The Force Awakens left me eager for another trip to the galaxy far far away. In my eyes, that’s mission accomplished.
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