The Mancunion

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Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The first entry to the Star Wars sequel trilogy bears the essential charm and fun that made the original movies so memorable while setting up the franchise for a new generation

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Although the subtitle of the first film in Disney’s canon of Star Wars movies has simply been The Force Awakens, it would be a little irresponsible not to refer to it as Episode VII. A casual viewer without any knowledge of the previous Star Wars films will feel left out, for no concessions are made to newcomers. If names such as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa and Chewbacca mean nothing to you, then you should be warned that this movie was not made with you in mind.

But any viewer who has even the most minimal knowledge of the Star Wars saga—especially fans who have been counting down the days since this film was announced three years ago—is not going to be let down. The Force Awakens is a funny and entertaining action-packed sci-fi flick that is more than worthy of the legendary franchise title that it bears.

Taking place decades after the events of Return of the Jedi, the wider plot of The Force Awakens revolves around a new conflict between the Resistance (formed from what was known as the Rebel Alliance) and the First Order (born out of the ashes of the Empire). Inside this galactic conflict, our new villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), seeks to find the long-since vanished Luke Skywalker. The map he needs in order to locate Skywalker is concealed in a droid called BB-8. Inevitably, this droid and the map continue to evade him as our heroes emerge. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are our charming new protagonists, who, despite coming from completely different backgrounds, find themselves united in the familiar struggle between good and evil.

While no spoilers are to be dealt out here, it would do no harm to mention the glaring plot similarities between The Force Awakens and the original Star Wars (which I must, resentfully, refer to as A New Hope). Although it would be easy to condemn Episode VII for an apparent lack of originality, it should be noted that the movie is unmistakably self-aware in this liberal borrowing from its artistic ancestors. It is evidently J. J. Abrams’ intention to make this movie a homage to what has come before, and in this endeavour it is largely successful. Even when there are transparent attempts to draw attention to the parallels—and to point out that the stakes have been raised—the tangible, nostalgic passion to Abrams’ direction does manage to justify these moments.

The proverbial passing of the torch to the next generation is an obvious theme of the new Star Wars. Whilst much hype has revolved around the return of the main cast of the original trilogy (most notably Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill), The Force Awakens is, unquestionably, a show that belongs to the new talent. John Boyega succeeds in giving depth to a guilt-ridden former stormtrooper, and Oscar Isaac brings charm galore to his role as a Resistance X-Wing pilot, but it is Daisy Ridley that is the star in the making. She is given a brilliantly crafted new character to work with, and she delivers to perfection. Harrison Ford also reminds us why we loved Han Solo in the first place; age has not dulled his charisma.

Everything about The Force Awakens has the unmistakable flavour of Star Wars. When the much derided prequel trilogy was released, many were quick to condemn the lack of fun and charm that made the original trilogy so memorable. The new Star Wars, as already noted, wisely borrows from the original movie, and that fun and often funny tone has been replicated effectively—yet it never feels like an artificial copy so much as a throwback to the old, energised with the new.

In short, the first entry into the Star Wars sequel trilogy is nothing short of a triumph. Even though it leans heavily on what has come before, it serves as a springboard to launch a new generation of Star Wars films. Only time will tell as to whether the Star Wars universe will have the energy to last through the myriad of pictures that Disney no doubt have planned. But, at least for now, Star Wars is great again.

4/5