Rey-joice – ★★★★½
So it’s finally here. The most hyped film of all time which will now almost surely go on to become the highest-grossing films of all time.
Behind all the box-office and Lucasfilm takeover talk, it’s hard to forget just what made the original 1977 Star Wars so popular in the first place. A brilliant sense of adventure, beautiful sets, fun characters and a damn simple plot. Here we are 38 years later and if we’re all honest, isn’t it all people wanted from this new instalment? So what a bloody relief it is to say that JJ Abrams and his team have delivered in spades.
The film is set thirty years after Return of the Jedi and Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has disappeared. The Rebels are working to defeat a new evil, the First Order (headed up by Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux), and both sides want to find Luke, with details of his whereabouts hidden in a droid. Our new hopes and heroes are Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), with big questions over their origins and destinies from the off. In order to find Luke and save the Republic we’re going to need a little help, so who better than old faces like Hans Solo, Chewbacca and General Leia Organa to help out. Other than the “let’s get Luke” business, we also have the little problem of the First Order’s GIANT Death Star-esque “Starkiller Base” which they’re now planning on utilising to destroy planets which we need to destroy. Yes. Again.
So it needs to be said that sitting down to watch The Force Awakens is at first really quite surreal. Is it possible not to feel something as the Lucasfilm logo flashes up on-screen, John Williams’ signature score hits and our title crawl starts telling us that Luke Skywalker has disappeared? Here we are looking at the stories of the Skywalkers again, with Hans Solo and Princess Leia on-screen as the Millennium Falcon, X-wing starfighters and TIE fighter zip around the sky. This level of adventure and excitement is exactly what we spent the entire prequel trilogy craving and it’s impossible not to feel exhilarated by some of the action sequences which are stunningly choreographed in a world that flawlessly blends practical sets and effects with CGI.
Abrams and screen-writing duo Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have put together a script that understands the world it’s coming from. The structure and key points are all loosely based on the story of A New Hope, with multiple “ah, I see what they’re doing there” moments of homage. Is this a lazy move or a genius step? You decide. This is truly one for the fans that delivers in every possible way with across-the-board excellence from every element of the production (visual effects, score, script, cinematography, production design). If you’re looking for flaws here, you could argue the middle act could have been tightened up, and Abrams has held on the Star Wars penchant for lots of lucky coincidences of people, places and things colliding at just the right time, we’ll put that down to The Force though.
One of the biggest delights from the film is the emergence of Rey as the future of the saga. She’s a strong, confident female character who needs no help from a male side-kick to do her thing. This is in keeping with the fiercely independent Leia of Episodes IV and V and the resourceful mother Padmé showcased in Episode II (though there’s a definite mission to erase the memory of those latter-day films here). There’s great work put in to her development and journey as she becomes the primary proponent of our film’s title. BB8 (with voice-consultant Bill Hader!) may have been the break-out star of the film’s pre-release marketing but it’s all about Rey from here on in.
Set your stopwatches to see how long it takes to overtake Avatar’s €2,500,000.
Released around Ireland on December 17th 2015