When Disney purchased the rights to Star Wars there was, well, a shitload of emotion. From those loudly proclaiming Star Wars was crap anyway to fans who were terrified that the big mouse was going to ruin the films that they held so dear. In among all that chaos, one thing became certain. It was back and was in the process of setting up a film universe to rival Marvel’s current behemoth (another Disney franchise).
So here we are, what feels like an eternity later, and we have The Force Awakens. It is literally in cinemas right now, for fanboys and girls the world over to watch and pick at. So is it good? Damn right it is.
Taking place an undisclosed number of years after Return of the Jedi we find that Galaxy Far Far Away is not in great shape. Peace has not been forthcoming and instead we have the evil First Order doing bad things and being constantly bothered by the Resistance. Sound familiar? Into this stumbles John Boyega’s Finn, a stormtrooper with a conscience, and Daisy Ridley’s Rey, a scavenger. Through a series of, quite frankly, coincidences they are dragged into this galactic war with a cast of heroes old and new.
Ridley and Boyega are the leads though and both of them do a cracking job at it. Ridley’s Rey has taken some stick in the last few days from certain portions of the internet but I had none of those problems. Sure she can look after herself but suggestions she is perfect are far from accurate. She is in over her head and while her natural abilities come to the fore, Ridley imbues her with a wide-eyed wonder, that makes sure you never forget she isn’t used to this stuff.
Boyega meanwhile is setting himself up as everyone’s new best friend. His Finn is in the startling position of having thought for himself for the first time in his life and it’s a position that doesn’t always see him making the right moral choices. Despite this, he is handy with a witty one-liner and there is a reason he seems to be establishing himself as a firm fan favourite.
Less well served is Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron. We are shown that he is one hell of a pilot and one cool looking motherfucker but apart from that we never get to know him. In fact, he tends to be overshadowed by his droid companion BB-8. Who despite never speaking a word of English manages to steal more scenes than he is any right to.
On the other side of the force Domhnall Gleeson sneers delightfully as General Hux but is little more than an evil face while Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma is barely even that. They are both lacking in real screentime and much like Isaac, you can only hope that is rectified further down the line.
In fact, the only bad guy to really get his due is Adam Driver’s Kylo Renn. The Dark Side’s best stroppy teenager since a young Anakin Skywalker cut down some younglings. While I know some have taken against his temper tantrums, I personally loved it. Following Vader was always going to be hard and moving away from his calm malevolence is a smart move. Renn is powerful, but is not at a stage where he knows exactly how to use that power. He’s conflicted and unlike young Anakin, it’s a conflict I want to see play out.
And this is all before we even get to the classic cast. Han Solo is undoubtedly on screen the most and Harrison Ford is as roguishly charming as ever. Sure, the first time he breaks into a sprint you can see the years catching up with him, but who cares? He’s Han Solo for fuck sake. On the flipside, Carrie Fisher is given a tough time. Changing from Princess to General, she is the head of the Resistance and ends up stuck behind a desk looking serious for most of the films running time.
Finally, there’s J.J. Abrams himself. I’m anxious to avoid spoilers, with the internet being in an uproar about them, but there are problems with the plot. At times it feels like the Original Trilogy has just been mashed into one film and much like with his stints in charge of Star Trek, the fan service occasionally goes too far. Yet all is forgiven the first time the Millenium Falcon swoops through the air. If there is one thing he has nailed here, it is the aerial dog fights and my god they are exciting. While lightsaber duels have been cut back, ditching the flips and rolls of the prequels, the aerial battles have just got more spectacular.
The Force Awakens is everything I wanted from a new Star Wars film. It pays tribute to the past while at the same time setting up a whole new future. It may have flaws, but it doesn’t stop it being a great platform on which Disney can build. Star Wars is back and this particular fan could not be happier about it.