I had mixed feelings going into the new Star Wars film.
Excited, obviously – the “original” Star Wars (now Episode IV: A New Hope) came out when I was 16, and was just the most awesome thing that had been in the cinema ever. Like many people in the cinema the day I saw it, I looked over my shoulder as the Star Destroyer makes its first massive entrance at the top of the screen, and ducked and dodged as the X-Wings make their final run down the canyons of the Death Star. The world changed that day as George Lucas redefined the spectacle of movies.
As everyone knows, The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the bunch, but I do have fond memories of Return of the Jedi, queuing outside the Odeon in Newcastle on the day it opened, cinema staff saving time by selling us tickets before we even got through the doors, then watching the film in the most packed cinema I’ve ever been in – people sitting on the steps between the rows of seats and (for all I know – I was glued to the screen) standing at the back.
And so that sense of excitement carried through to The Phantom Menace in 1999. At the time we all enjoyed it – Darth Maul, pod-racing – but I watched it again recently and it really isn’t very good. And although we dutifully turned out for the release Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, I’m not sure I’ve seen either of them again since.
So, mixed feelings of anticipation and apprehension as the family took a Christmas Eve trip – the trailer looked good, JJ Abrams was now in charge (George Lucas nowhere near it), Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote Empire and Jedi) wrote the screenplay. But would it be a letdown again?
In a word, no.
We loved it. From the opening titles crawl to the final shot which sets up the remaining episodes, it’s a fun ride. X-Wings, Tie-Fighters, light sabres, cute droids, dashing heroes (and heroines) – everything you want from a Star Wars movie.
Sure there are things you can quibble over, though as I’m not going to say anything that could be a spoiler, so I won’t go into details, but they’re trivial when you’re having such a good time.
Daisy Ridley as Rey is a dynamic herione – finally, Star Wars gets a female action hero – and she and John Boyega (Finn) should become major stars on the back of this series. It’s good to see some familiar faces back, but the film doesn’t overplay that – the new characters are the main focus of the story.
The script is sharp, frequently funny, with little of that dire Lucas dialogue from the earlier films, and it nods to the fans of those films without alienating anyone coming to this as their first Star Wars experience (but why would anyone do that?). And JJ Abrams reins in the lens flare while delivering some truly spectacular visuals.
It’s not perfect, but it’s a top class and very worthy new addition to the Star Wars cycle, and I’m already looking forward to Episode 8, due in 2017.
All pictures: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame © 2014 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved..