There’s been an awakening, have you felt it? Ever since we heard that already iconic question in the first trailer revealed by JJ Abrams excitement has been at a fever pitch for the seventh installment in the Star Wars Franchise.
Star Wars is the biggest franchise in cinema- just take a look around you. The build up to The Force Awakens has been bigger than any other in film history and pressure is on JJ to deliver the film that fans were waiting for in 1999.
The cinema goes dark, the yellow scroll fades into the distance- chills go down your spine. Just from the opening moments alone it is clear that finally, someone has got Star Wars right again. I’ll avoid all spoilers here (keep an eye out for our spoiler review in the coming days) so little will be told in the way of the plot. The opening moments though set out clearly Abrams intentions for the rest of the movie.
We are first introduced to Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) , the best pilot in the rebellion as he tries to run from the First Order led by Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. Dameron has information that is valuable to the First Order and in order to protect it he stashes it into BB8.
BB8 eventually falls into the hands of a Scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and the journey begins. Echoes of a New Hope are ever present and perhaps never more so than in the movie’s opening set up- or in its closing moments. For all its wonder The Force Awakens can never quite shake the fact that it lives in the memory of its predecessors. At times the references feel like fan service, understandably so with JJ being vocal about his passion for the original movies but at times they become a distraction.
That aside though Abrams does a phenomenal job. Imagination has always been the key to Star Wars and thankfully Abrams has that in spades along with writers Michael Ardnt and Lawrence Kasdan. The planets, the creatures, the weapons- they are all there and they all feel as though they could have been plucked out of the original trilogy. Abrams has filled the position left by Lucas perfectly. He also understands that Star Wars needs practical effects and whilst there is one heavily CGI’d scene the rest is all the hand crafted beauty that we needed from a Star Wars movie.
The film also has the job of introducing us to a whole new cast of characters which once again Abrams manages with perfection. Marketing has undeniably helped but from the moment we first meet Rey and later in the movie Fin (John Boyega) we feel as though we already know them, such is the familiarity of their settings. As for characters we already know Abrams has the original cast at his disposal and using them wisely- especially Harrison Ford’s Han Solo.
One of the most important things here though was getting the villain right. The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars movie without Darth Vader so establishing a new threat quickly was important. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is a different beast altogether- one who I can’t really discuss in this review but as performances go Driver is one of the movie’s stand outs. Domnhall Gleeson is also brilliant as General Hux, a character who has been pretty much left out of all the marketing. His slicked back hair and maniacal face make for some terrifying viewing.
The big question really is are you going to be satisfied? Well really if you’re not I’m not sure what else you could have expected from Abrams here. Star Wars: Force Awakens is pure cinema- it has some of the most excited sequences seen on the big screen this year, features some memorable characters and several moments that are likely to go on to become iconic moments in the whole franchise. The film’s only downfall is that perhaps in paying say so much fan service it has left itself in the shadows of its predecessors too much. Regardless- this is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, a thrilling, unforgettable and romantic return to a Galaxy Far Far Away.