One of modern cinema’s most passionately beloved franchises, Star Wars, has a new episode in cinemas this week. J.J. Abrams has taken over from creator George Lucas as director, co-writer and co-producer, and with Star Wars: The Force Awakens Abrams delivers an action-packed space adventure. The new installment has plenty to satisfy the appetites of its legions of fans.
In fact, there’s so much pandering to devotees that it feels as if a check list was used.
Resurrect original characters? Check. (Almost all of them.)
Cute robot? Check. (The BB-8 droid.)
Familiar scenes and storyline? Check. (Such as the numerous scenes set on the desert planet Jakku, recalling Tatooine; a scene that suspiciously resembles the classic Cantina scene; the Death Star is now Starkiller base — all ideas from Episode IV.)
Some audience members spoke of being moved to tears just by the dramatic fanfare of John Williams’ majestic musical themes. (Williams is the original composer for all six Star Wars films.)
Clinging to the familiar ‘good versus evil’ trope, the tale begins three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire. A new threat has arisen: The First Order is attempting to gain control of the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance fighters.
Abrams’ usual style is to have lots of (mostly youthful) characters running around to denote ‘action’ and it basically works. The movie is not bogged down by too much dialogue; in fact very little time passes before there’s yet another massive action sequence of aerial dogfighting, ambush or warfare.
The cast is wonderful. Our central heroine, Daisy Ridley’s Rey, is plucky and adorable and — in the fine tradition of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, Angelina Jolie’s Lara Croft and Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss — she is a formidable action star-in-the-making, even if she looks and sounds like Keira Knightly’s baby sister.
Gwendoline Christie is good as Captain Phasma and Lupita Nyong’o stunning beauty is wasted as the voice of Maz Kanata. It’s actually really great to see the return of Carrie Fisher as Leia and Harrison Ford as Han Solo.
All up, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fun and exciting movie. Viewing on a huge screen (IMAX and/or in 3D) complemented by a powerful sound system is highly recommended.