Today: May 28, 2024

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

[FEAR NOT dear reader, there will be NO spoilers in the following review. In fact the plot of the film will not be touched on anymore than what you already know from trailers]

There’s a reason that everywhere you look at the moment the world seems to be going gaga about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. You would almost forget that Christmas is around the corner such is the excitement surrounding all things strong in The Force.

The reason for that is that Star Wars is more than a movie. From the moment John Williams’ familiar fanfare strikes up to the title slow scrolling its way up the screen you are transported to that galaxy far, far away. Star Wars is more than an experience, it is knitted into cinematic history in culture like no other film franchise.

So, The Force Awakens comes with no small amount of expectation and perilous pitfalls with which to fall into. Remember that George Lucas’ prequels did not please many. Step forward JJ Abrams, the man Lucas Films hunted down like Boba Fett after a particular hefty bounty. The reason being that Abrams is a safe pair of hands, he was the man after all who rebooted Star Trek and some how made it even more mainstream than it ever was previously.

What Abrams has therefore done is something incredibly smart. Between himself and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt they have gone all Blues Brothers on Star Wars in “putting the band back together”.

Because what The Force Awakens does so brilliantly, indeed impeccably, is to take the original Star Wars film, A New Hope, and use it as a template of what is quintessentially Star Wars. So you’ve got a collection of mismatched characters, lovable droids, terrifying villains and of course, that all important ingredient: some key original cast members. You could almost watch the original film and this one side-by-side to see them brilliantly echo each other over the near forty-year time span between them.

The dynamic works perfectly. The banter between the likes of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca is like a favourite jumper, it’s comfortable, familiar and makes you feel at home. Throw in a group of highly likable new characters, outstandingly led by John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, and something becomes clear. This is the passing of a torch, baton, light sabre, force, whatever you want to call it. And it’s a passing that you want to find out more about. Make no doubt, much of The Force Awakens is there to create more intrigue into where the following films will take the story. Disney didn’t buy this franchise for just one film, they bought it with countless more sequels in mind.

Abrams and co. aren’t looking to just continue the grandest of space operas, they are looking to set up it up for years to come. For, while the likes of Ford and Carrie Fisher, returning as Leia, are no doubt key selling points, it’s the way in which the new characters are effortlessly woven into this galaxy in such a way as to have you constantly wondering how they fit into the bigger picture.

Abrams treads a perfect line between paying homage and reverence to Lucas’ original films while also progressing the story. Crucially he’s kept that slightly beaten-up aesthetic of the original films, something that was sorely lacking in the prequels. While there is a lot of CGI on offer there is a tangible quality to many of the characters and effects. BB8, the rolling droid seen and already ingrained in popular culture thanks to his toy tie-ins and trailer steeling moments, is a prime example of this. At times he’s clearly real, interacting with characters in ways CGI simply can’t do, but when the time comes Abrams is happy to call in CGI to enhance the character, to bring that little bit of comedy to proceedings.

And therein lies the magic of Star Wars that The Force Awakens seems to have captured where the prequels failed. Star Wars is supposed to be fun. Yes the plot is riveting, especially in seeing where it can go with the old and the new, and of course at times it is operatic in both the good and bad ways, but more than anything Star Wars: The Force Awakens will paint a smile on your face. It will make you feel like a kid again, it takes you back to when films had the ability to dim the lights and transport you to far off worlds.

Will The Force Awakens change cinema the way Star Wars did in 1977? No, certainly not, there is nothing revolutionary on offer here, but it captures the essence of what has gone before and offers it to a new generation. It’s the kind of cinematic experience that surround sound, perfect projection and the inner child were made for. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will set your heart racing for all the right reasons and opens up an endless possibility of new adventures in a world you already know and love.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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