Now then, how to write a review of possibly the biggest film ever without spoiling anything for anybody who has not yet seen it? Easy enough, I’ll not mention the plot but instead I’ll focus on acting, thematic areas of interest, and the fact that this is a return to form after the generally mundane prequel trilogy. That should do the trick, hopefully.
Yes, that’s right. Real, physical locations are back and it seems they are here to stay. There are a lot of CGI shots, of course, but they have the same feel as the models that were used back in the 1970s and 80s, or even the tinkering that Lucas has undertaken on the original trilogy since their first release (hush now, purists). This is most definitely a good thing. Gone are the conversations about trade disagreements and back are the frenetic action sequences and enjoyable character beats that made Star Wars an instant classic. Put simply, The Force Awakens puts to bed any negativity following the prequels and also puts right what they once got wrong. In that respect JJ Abrams is like a modern day Sam Beckett, Quantum Leaping across time and space to correct George Lucas’ previous errors.
Some may disapprove of the narrative similarities between this and the 1977 origin of the franchise, but for me this was a minor point. I can see that, while crafting a new chapter in the series, Disney and Lucasfilm seem to be echoing some of the key thematic points of the original trilogy. Redemption, the Light and the Dark, finding your destiny, that sort of thing. With that said, the story structure is clearly geared up as the first part of a trilogy, so if you’re going in expecting to receive answers to every question then you will be disappointed.
All this grand operatic space opera nonsense is supported by some great performances from both newcomers and old favourites alike. John Boyega carries much of the story as Finn, alongside Daisy Ridley as Rey. Here again we have yet another example of a strong female character and a sign that, at last, things may be changing. For me it says a lot that our three main leads – Boyega, Ridley and the ever impressive Oscar Isaac – are not white men. A much needed shift in dynamics.
The old favourites are on equal form. Harrison Ford in particular slips back into the character of Han Solo with ease, seemingly revelling in the role. Likewise for Carrie Fisher, although one hopes she will have a little more involvement in Episode VIII. As for Mark Hamill, well the less said there the better. Spoilers, after all.
On that note, minor spoiler ahead. However you look at The Force Awakens, my visit to the cinema was made all the better for seeing Admiral Ackbar again. It’s a cunning ruse! There may be a hint of deus ex machina to proceedings, but otherwise this isn’t just the Star Wars film we needed, it is (kind of) the Star Wars film we deserved.