The original “Star Wars” trilogy is etched in the mind of audiences of a certain age, transformative for some, iconic for most. In 1977 commencing a film with an epic space battle in mid stream, audiences had never seen anything like it.
The previous attempt to re-energise the series with the CGI heavy sequels met with a mixed reaction, albeit financial success. Many believed the real spirit of the series was missing, lost in blue/green screens and interminable interplanetary politics.
When Disney bought the rights from George Lucas it was obvious the series would return, as the world created by Lucas still provides a wide canvas for a new trilogy and numerous spin off’s to be drawn.
A new director was found in the safe hands of JJ Abrams who had already rescued the Star Trek series from a backwater, in the process creating another money spinning franchise.
The Internet has been abuzz from the moment the announcements were made, who would be in the film and what form the story would take.
As anticipation built and internet stories leaked, it was obvious Abrams would attempt to amalgamate old with new, eschewing CGI as much as possible in an attempt to keep the movie close to the vision of the original films.
Such is the interest in the film, pundits were suggesting any final box office return below $1.8 billion would be a disappointment, so no pressure there.
Nobody likes spoilers, so will keep the review relatively brief but think of the film as a quest to find something or someone.
Director Abrams and the crew have managed to seamlessly interweave much loved characters with two new personable young leads Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Effectively a sequel to the original films and a reboot combined, the film cleverly sets the stall for the next two films in the new trilogy.
Ridley makes for a charismatic lead, able to do everything and anything even before a certain disturbance makes her life even more interesting. As Stormtrooper FN-2187 and latterly “Finn”, Boyega who was noted as a stand out in “Attack the Block”, again shows his screen presence and remains someone to watch,
Oscar Isaacs as “Poe Dameron” makes an impression as the “best Rebel pilot they have”, displaying obvious glee which may not be too much acting, as he pilots his X-Wing against the First Order.
It is no secret Han Solo (Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Leia (Fisher) make an appearance. It is good to see them all back again, Ford especially looks completely at home. What roles they fulfil will remain part of the experience, as will any returning help from droid’s that may or may not appear.
One great new character with a hefty nod to the marketing team, is a fully functioning new BB8 droid, as cute as a button, providing handy comic relief and no doubt coming to a store near to you soon.
As you would expect the effects are state of the art, spaceships including one rather famous one, still feel grubby and grounded in reality. Space battles are fantastic with graphic capabilities the original films could only dream of.
Of course the Rebels need someone to rebel against and “The First Order” born out of the ruins of the “Empire” fill this role well enough. Still using the same architects as the Empire, all brutal minimalistic and heavy on the black/grey yet shiny look, they are led by a shadowy Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). His nomenclature leaving little room for doubt as to his position in the hierarchy. Underlings Kylo Rey (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) all jostle to complete his other worldly bidding.
Arguably Rey has some work to do to provide the menace so evident in the earlier films but this is part of the story and evil will take time to perfect. Driver has range to spare to allow this character arc to continue to expand. As you would expect we are treated to light-sabre duels and the mythology of the underlying force makes an appearance.
Gleeson channels his inner King Sneer as he gleefully destroys worlds and Christie as Captain Phasma massacres villagers, whilst looking good doing so in fantastic battle armour. Hopefully we will get to see her face next time around.
There is much to enjoy here, snow, sand, space, bonkers looking aliens, Tie fighters and even cooler Stormtroopers. If you enjoyed the earlier films, it’s a given you will enjoy the story, characters and feel of this episode.
It is good to see that despite the massive merchandising band wagon in full force, at least the tent pole film on which the whole exercise is built, is worthy of the all the hoopla. Praise must go to Abrams who has corralled all of the disparate elements so well.
Is it perfect yet? No, but with the right structure now in place, there is no reason the new trilogy could not only equal, but might even surpass the originals, high praise indeed.
Despite the almost impossible hype, this is true Star Wars as many of us remember, updated with 2015 technology but managing to capture the spirit of the originals
Carefully integrating old with new, the film manages to set the stage for a whole new era. Allowing a new generation of audiences to again believe that, even for a youngster on a forgotten dusty planet, anything is truly possible
Go watch it on the biggest screen you can find