(Author’s note: there are pointers to plot and maybe a few spoilers in this review, and we advise you to watch the film before you read this!)
A beautifully crafted film that nods maybe a little too much to the past, The Force Awakens has brought new life to the series that was darkened by the reluctantly mentioned prequels. A foot in each generation, the film brings strong new characters into the story, whilst still giving us that fuzzy feeling when Solo and Chewbacca appear together once more. It provides more fan service and déjà vu than imaginative storylines, but we can accept the similarities if only for more tearjerker scenes between R2-D2 and our new droid companion BB-8.
New faces like Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are played flawlessly despite some vagueness in their identities, which leaves us hoping that they will be fleshed out in the following films. Rey has to transform from this childlike character who owns a pilot doll to a grown fearless woman, who is quite capable of looking after herself she’ll have you know, and her mysterious background leaves few clues as to how she will continue to change. Whilst Finn is built through lack of action and his interaction with Rey and Poe (Oscar Isaac) who is a dashing and daring star pilot. The ex-Stormtrooper’s biggest pull comes in the form of what we assume is an old comrade, with the fan given pseudonym of “TR-8R”. We all want to know who he is and what he meant to Finn before he went AWOL.
When it comes to villains, forget Vader and Palpatine, I introduce to you Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. He may still be in the midst of the teenager angst phase but he shows us power like Darth Vader never had, with less training than any villain we’ve seen before in the franchise. Some say the gangly youth has too many tantrums to be taken seriously, but anyone who can stop a blaster shot mid-flight and then continue giving orders gains my respect. Bring in the mystery behind his special lightsabre and his corruption whilst under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker, and he becomes the villain this franchise really deserves. His inner battle between the dark and light forces within him almost gives us hope that he may be the one to balance the force. But with the ghost of Darth Vader hanging above him, it may be too difficult to betray his grandfather’s true legacy.
We can’t forget the sneer perfectionist that is General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Never seen without a snooty expression, the General looks more prone to a tantrum than Kylo Ren. The rivalry between the two characters as they fight for approval from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) adds an interesting angle to the Ren’s story. He is more powerful than Vader, but he still has to prove his worth against someone as ingratiating as Hux and we can only imagine how much that infuriates him.
Think crazy plans, the Millennium Falcon, lightsaber battles and Stormtroopers missing (and even not missing) their targets. J.J Abrams manages to keep the old Star Wars charms that we know and love whilst bringing all aspects of its production into the 21st century. His revival of the beloved series has us waiting in anticipation for the rest of this trilogy to unfold, albeit in the hands of Rian Johnson.
The next Star Wars release will be the spin-off Rogue One in December 2016.