Star Wars isn’t the first time Super 8 helmer J.J. Abrams has been tasked with awakening much-loved sci-fi franchises from their cinematic slumbers following his well-received 2009 Star Trek reboot. Yet Star Wars: The Force Awakens – the first film of a new trilogy – feels like a whole different space game. Ever since Disney acquired the multi-billion dollar rights to the franchise back in 2012, film nerds across the globe have waited, lightsaber in hand, for the new set of Star Wars adventures that, god willing, would wipe the memories of George Lucas’s CGI-crazy prequels out of their Jar Jar Binks infested brains.
In typical Abrams fashion, plot details have been sparse other than a few carefully edited spoiler-free trailers and the announcement that original stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher would be reprising their roles, alongside newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. With a world premiere which made the Oscars look like a Charlie Sheen pool party, and pre-ticket sales hitting above $50 million, it’s fair to say the film-going world was eager to check out Luke, Leia, Han and co.’s latest adventures.
The Force Awakens feels oh-so-familiar, with a new legion of no-gooders born out of the fall of the Empire thirty years previous who are threatening a similarly divided Galaxy. With Luke Skywalker missing, the battle to find the last Jedi standing is on with the Nazi-esque First Order, overseen by Andy Serkis’s Supreme Leader Snoke, and the General (yep, not Princess anymore!) Leia (Fisher) led resistance, simultaneously on the hunt for the one-handed Jedi.
With the only trace of his whereabouts falling into the hands of young scavenger Rey (Ridley), who, with the help of former Stormtrooper Finn (Boyega) and new friends Han Solo (Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), must reach the resistance before Vader copycat Kylo Ren (Driver) and Snoke’s other minions get their hands on the key to Skywalker’s much sought after location.
It does feel very much like a love letter to the original trilogy, and in particular A New Hope. Both in its heavy use of practical effects (to a point where Snoke-related CGI looks a little out of place…) and storyline similarities (droids and their super important messages), back-to-basics is the order of the day. With nods to its past at every corner of the far-reaching space system, and with our favourite trio of heroes returning for this seventh outing (and all leaving their own unique mark on this new era of films) it’s heavily nostalgic, yet without ever losing its firmly established 21st century footing.
‘Loose lips sink starships’ was the mantra the filmmaker and his cast have lived by, as the demand for secrecy over its allusive plot moved towards near legendary status. The theatrical nature of what happens, including the who, what, where and when, leaves us aching all over to a level close to spontaneous combustion and only makes this creation more epic.
It’s a passing of the torch; the new guard making way, yet still with a role to play, to the young guns ready to take the weight of film’s greatest space opera onto their ever expanding shoulders. The inclusion of the unknown Daisy Ridley and Attack the Block’s John Boyega as central characters appears to have been a masterstroke from the Lost creator. Fresh faced, fierce and energised, both carry the film with the right balance of swag, humour and kick-assery that holds much hope for the future of the franchise. While Following on from one of cinema’s most iconic villains is a task Lucas failed to deal with, Driver’s Kylo Ren – the ultimate Darth Vader wannabe – brings an interestingly conflicted central antagonist to the ever-rammed table of stern looking baddies.
With John William’s iconic score bellowing through the speakers, it’s all very romantic, and Abrams’ The Force Awakens may rely heavily on what came before it, but other than a few head-scratching missteps, it’s an emotional, awe-inspiring ride that’ll leave you weeping into your over-priced Stormtrooper 3D glasses with excitement, pride, and anticipation of what’s to come next.