Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

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The seventh instalment in the Star Wars franchise – taking up where Return of the Jedi ended – lays to rest the bitter taste left by the last three films.

 

In a record year for blockbusters, they’ve saved the biggest mother of the galaxy for last. The achingly anticipated follow-up to the first holy trinity of the Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens comes out with all guns blazing – literally. But, unlike Avengers: Age of Ultron, which kicked off with similar cheek, J.J. Abrams’ joyride has so much more up its sleeve. It’s building on a cherished mythology, but thirty-two years after Return of the Jedi it is canny enough to subvert a few expectations. For starters, it gives a new face to the Stormtrooper, and in the guise of the black, London-born John Boyega, has found an engaging protagonist. Finn is no hero, but he’s far from happy with the barbaric tactics of the nefarious First Order.

 

 

 Star Wars

 

In fact, part of the film’s appeal is its mix of the old, the legendary (Harrison Ford) and the brand new. Harrison Ford was voted the biggest box-office star of the twentieth century and now a spry 73-years-young, he’s not going to let the next century off lightly. He doesn’t look 32-years older; maybe twenty at a pinch. There’s also a feisty new heroine in the form of the desert scavenger Rey, played by the London-born Daisy Ridley, with more than a passing resemblance to Keira Knightley, particularly when she wrinkles up her nose (which, sadly, isn’t very often). Oscar Isaac, after a career of playing tortured, ambivalent characters of indeterminate ethnicity, scrubs up nicely as Poe Dameron, an intrepid and handsome member of the Resistance.

 

 While the epic set-pieces are gratifyingly awesome, it’s the raft of smaller moments that make the film so rewarding. The human interaction between Boyega and Ridley is a constant pleasure, while a sense of fun and humour is never more than a beat away. Of course, Harrison Ford can knock out a one-liner like the best of them. For instance, when two characters are reunited in the midst of battle, he succinctly advises: “Escape now. Hug later.” Oh, and no review would be complete without a mention of Chewbacca: he doesn’t look a day older.

 

There are a few bum notes: Adam Driver seems an odd choice to play Han Solo’s son, if purely for genetic reasons. And much of the dialogue is lost along the way. It’s a relief, then, to encounter the indomitable, mask-clad Kylo Ren, an evil warrior who makes every syllable count. So when Poe claims to misread him because of his mask, the joke is kind of lost. Grown critics have been said to cry at moments in the film, but they sound more like magnanimous fans. It is, though, a thrilling, funny and occasionally exhilarating ride. More importantly, it lays to rest the bitter taste left by the last three Star Wars films.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max Von Sydow, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Brian Vernel, Leanne Best, Dame Harriet Walter.

 

Dir J.J. Abrams, Pro Kathleen Kennedy, J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk, Screenplay Lawrence Kasdan, J. J. Abrams and Michael Arndt, Ph Dan Mindel, Ed Mary Jo Markey and Maryann Brandon, Pro Des Rick Carter and Darren Gilford, Music John Williams, Costumes Michael Kaplan.

 

Lucasfilm Ltd./Bad Robot Productions-Walt Disney.

135 mins. USA. 2015. Rel: 17 December 2015. Cert. 12A.