Three decades after the Empire was defeated, the fight for good and evil continues. The First Order threatens the galaxy’s freedom and the great Jedi Luke Skywalker remains missing. On the planet Jakku, a scavenger called Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds a droid who holds vital information on Luke’s whereabouts. When she crosses paths with a rogue Stormtrooper (John Boyega), they make it their mission to return the droid to the Resistance and defeat the First Order.
If you weren’t living under a rock last year, you would know that the hype around Star Wars: The Force Awakens was intense. The pressure on it being a success was as strong as the force itself. The film needed to be a hit for the next installments to continue but it also had the older fans to answer to, especially after the mixed reaction to the prequels. No one needed another Phantom Menace or even worse, a repeat of Revenge of the Sith. At the same time, it had to appeal to the kids who would undoubtedly fill up the cinemas. Striking the balance would be a difficult task for any decent filmmaker. It is therefore a relief to say that JJ Abrams nailed it and Star Wars: The Force Awakens has more than earned its place in the series.
The Force Awakens retains the best qualities of the original trilogy. The stormtroopers still have no aim, the cuts continue to look like Powerpoint transitions and Han Solo remains the coolest character in the galaxy. It is endearing, exciting and full of retro charm. All this and more gives the film a lovingly nostalgic tone: it reminds the audience what was so great about the original films without becoming bogged down in its own history.
Much of this is thanks to the direction of JJ Abrams, a talented ensemble and an epic grasp of storytelling balanced with action. JJ Abrams proves that he has a gift for taking beloved series and breathing new life into them, such as his successful revival of Star Trek. You can tell that Star Wars isn’t purely a franchise to him: there is a heart and soul behind this story. That said, it never lets down on the pace or the thrills. We go through many wondrous landscapes and each one is an unforgettable backdrop for the great fight sequences that take place. A certain lightsaber duel set in a grand snow-ridden forest may be one of the best in the entire saga.
It is wonderful to have the original cast back together and even better to see them matched by the newcomers. Rey has drawn comparisons to Princess Leia in her role. After all, they both prove that the leading women in Star Wars don’t have to resign themselves to playing damsels in distress. However, Rey feels much more like Luke Skywalker — she is full of hope, powerful yet kind and easily becomes the film’s true hero with a winning performance from Ridley. Her male co-stars don’t falter either: John Boyega is loveable as accidental rebel Finn, scared but determined to do the right thing, and Oscar Isaac is equally exciting as the Resistance’s best pilot Poe Dameron. Together, they form a new generation of heroes worthy of their predecessors and it is hard not to fall for them. Even their droid, BB-8, is adorable!
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a true blockbuster with a heart as gold as C3PO. For me, nothing illustrates this best than what happened when I watched it at the cinema. A father and son had sat in front of me in matching Jedi robes, clutching toy lightsabers. Throughout the film, I couldn’t help but notice their continuous excitement. When the credits rolled, their joy was so infectious that even I smiled. That is why I love this new addition to the series: The Force Awakens is already creating irreplaceable memories for cinema-goers of all generations and it is through the sheer entertainment of strong filmmaking. Star Wars has returned to its former glory and it is here to stay. As Han says… “Chewie, we’re home”.