Star Wars – The Force Awakens review

A long time ago in a small market town not that far away… OK, not the most original of intros, but it’s perhaps not the most original of films. But I can’t help recalling how these films made me feel as a child. I didn’t care that Star Wars was a muddle of Arthurian legend and Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, what mattered was the excitement it generated. Rather than a future loaded with bank loans, bills and DIY, I dreamt I too would be charged with getting the girl, killing some baddies and saving the entire galaxy.

Clearly the preceding six films ignited the same passion in everyone. Now nearly 40 years from the wonderfully simple and slightly camp original, Disney is literally herding the world’s population into the cinemas. Now this story of two ancient tribes of feuding space wizards gets a new generation of characters.

So what can we say, without spoiling your experience? We’re presented with a great trio of characters to take the film forwards, there’s a glimpse into the lives of the Stormtroopers and there’s plenty of nods to the original trilogy. The old school cast return, accompanied by familiar memes of massive civil engineering projects, woefully underfunded Rebel forces throwing themselves against overwhelming might and some splendidly dry running gags.

Technically, director JJ Abrams demonstrates why he’s one of the best in the game. Where the prequels’ set pieces were a frenetic mess, The Force Awakens sees rhythm and restraint in its battles and chases. The scenes are loaded with deft touches, rather than edited at a ludicrous pace. The environments owe much to the first films, something most welcome. In an attempt to create a more intricate set of worlds, the prequels packed as much detail as possible into every frame. Now many of the scenes are sparse, which gives a vast sense of scale. A hearty return to in-camera effects applies a sense of mass to everything. Instead of the epic, yet detached, space battles from Attack of the Clones, we’re treated to chases reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back’s greatest moments. You’ll never know how much you missed the Millennium Falcon, until you see this film.

Every man of a certain age will have his heart flutter when Carrie Fisher comes into the frame, because every reveal is staffed to perfection. What the film triumphs at is generating the childlike exhilaration you hope it will. Despite a typically outlandish premise being outlandish and the side-lining of the laws of physics you go along with it all, because the execution is so very, very good. We’re told to be excited by a million merchandise strands and advertising tie-ins, but when John Williams’ score kicks in you are transported back to that feeling as kid, when you experienced these films for the first time. It’s certainly no tired attempt to cash-in on past glories – this film is exactly what we hoped it would be…

Star Wars – The Force Awakens in is cinemas everywhere (and we mean everywhere!) now.

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