Although we have done our best to keep this spoiler free, do not read this review if you haven't at least seen the trailers for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Has any film ever promised so much by giving away so little?
Ever since we got our first look at the Force Awakens over a year ago, the secrecy surrounding its plot only served to increase our expectations even more. With every passing speck of footage seemed to emerge another fan theory.
And in the midst all of this marketing hype, director J. J. Abrams gradually went from ‘new hope’ to ‘sure thing’, becoming the guy who would not only make audiences forget about the Jar Jar Binks days but also jumpstart the next chapter in the saga in style.
Well, feel free to let out a huge Wookie roar of relief because he’s done just that. Funny, touching, terrifying, it ticks all the boxes a true Star Wars film should, seamlessly blending in a new set of characters and bringing some classic ones back to the fold as well.
Without giving too much away, as ever the story unfolds around a quest. One where the end goal is sought after by both light and dark sides. The heroes of which, the Resistance, are led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who sends out her finest pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) off in a race against time with his unique (and already iconic) bot BB-8, to reach their goal before the First Order (formally the Galactic Empire) does, along with their giant Starkiller - essentially the Death Star on steroids.
Throw in baddie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) stormtrooper with morals, Finn (John Boyega), and scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridly) and you have the makings of a classic, although not always without faults.
Don't get us wrong, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are worth the ticket price alone. Given the pair’s natural patter on camera, you’d assume they’d starred together in a trilogy before. We can’t speak highly enough of their dramatic and even comedic ranges, with Boyega rivalling even Han Solo for wry facial expressions.
Daisy Ridley’s scavenger is hunting for more than just wreckage on Jakku; left by her parents many moons ago, she’s determined to stick around and find answers. As is usually the case in these situations, her mission soon descends into something a lot more complex: survival.
Gone are the days of golden bikinis. Ridley is not a sexual object for nerds to fantasise about. She’s a thinker, a doer, a strong-willed rookie rebel fighter also able to rewire devices on any spaceship she wants to. Expect to see a few ‘Feminine Awakens’ headlines pop up in the next few weeks.
Finn isn't the only Stormtrooper with personality, although given the leading hype to the film you no doubt already know that. No longer simply emotionless, hard-shelled grunts, Abrams’ Stormtroopers have a bit more smarts to them than we’ve previously seen.
Kylo Ren is set to be a villain that could rival Vader himself. A lofty presence, booming voice, fits of anger and a red hot lightsaber make Kylo Ren as menacing a baddie as we’ve seen in the franchise so far. A bona fide badass.
For all of Driver’s good work mind, the less said about his villainous cohorts the better: Domhall Gleeson’s kowtowing General Hux seems neither frightening nor useful, while Andy Serkis’s large, CGI Supreme Leader Snoke feels more of a throwback to those forgettable prequels than anything else.
Visually, there's much to be said for the physical sets, adding an extra veneer of believability to each scene and it pays off in spades. Remaining faithful to the original trilogy in terms of light, colour tone shadow use and truly epic design – one standoff in particular could easily go down as one of cinema’s most memorable ever scenes, Abrams has created a contemporary blockbuster which also feels timeless.
But some things obviously never change, although that's mostly fine with us. The dogfights are still riveting. Stormtroopers are still woefully inaccurate with weaponary. There’s still very little health and safety (read: hand rails) in place on villainous star-ships. Han and Chewie remain an ass-kicking force to be reckoned with. And once again you’ll leave the cinema with a big fat smile on your face.
The long worrysome wait is over.