Star Wars: The Force Awakens has set a new box office record, introduced an ensemble of likable contemporary characters and has won over a new generation of fans who will now be seeking out the originals. Why has all of this happened? There are, of course, several reasons but none as strong as the man himself; Mr J. J. Abrams. The director has every practical method up his sleeve in order to revitalise tired franchises. He did it with Star Trek and now he has done it with Star Wars. This is the installment for an audience that dismissed Episodes 4, 5 and 6; it’s Star Wars for the naysayers, for everyone.
The Force Awakens has rejuvenated the franchise and Abrams has taken the narrative back to its 1970’s roots. As the iconic titles arrived on screen I had a sudden (and entirely belated) realisation as to why there was such anticipation around this new film, even following the utter panning of the early 2000’s efforts. It’s the nostalgia of the cult series, and it seeps out from every pore of the movie. From scene transitions that echo The Empire Strikes Back to witty conversation between Han Solo and the beloved Chewbacca – Abrams and George Lucas have collaborated to pin point what fans love, and develop that for a modern audience. Written by Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams, and Michael Arndt the script is seemingly a dream. Cliched and trite, The Phantom Menace – and the following two features in that particular series – had scripts that were hard to handle, The Force Awakens has improved ten-fold and this is a witty and intelligent movie that spends time reminiscing on the good ol’ days while still propelling the narrative forward.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place thirty years after The Empire Strikes Back, Darth Vader is long gone and The Republic is under threat from a new malevolent group known as The First Order. Leia leads The Resistance and Han has returned to his smuggling days with best pal Chewwy. While old favourites return, new faces arrive. Fresh talent Daisy Ridley and John Boyega lead the story as Ray and Fin; their chemistry is electric and the duo echo in a new phase for the franchise. There is a bright future for Abrams’s take on the popular story, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – the new Vadar of the piece – is a young and genuinely scary antagonist, yet he holds an underlying naivety that makes him real. To welcome Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill is ingenious, too. The trio were what made these films so beloved for it was their original story that captured the hearts of cinema-goers and while Ford is the star of the veteran actors, they’re all welcomed back gleefully. The arrival of a new droid, BB-8 is a superb move. For a robot that doesn’t have any understandable dialogue, he has so much personality, one that inspires a connection between him and his audience.
The battle scenes are perfectly paced and timed just right, the visuals of these scenes are backed up by new-age effects that are never questioned. Old meets new but in a way that is measured correctly. This new movie, the seventh in a series that is loved by many, will sit as a classic. Sitting in the cinema, watching The Force Awakens, I noticed the quiet beauty of the story that takes place in a galaxy far, far away: here, on Earth, it unites the young and the old, people of all backgrounds and histories. We all love this tale that takes place somewhere in the stars and this initial magic has been captured once more. Well done Abrams, you did us all proud.