October 20, 2017

Star Wars: The Force awakens – a pleasing romp with humour and breathtaking visual effects

If Star Wars and nostalgia is your thing
The Force Awakens will make your heart sing

If intergalactic warfare and remembrance of things past salivate your senses, then Star Wars: The Force Awakens will satisfy your appetite. Director J. J. Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness, Super 8, Mission: Impossible III) and his co-writers Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Michael Arndt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) have picked up the baton from George Lucas’s acclaimed Revenge of the Sith and turned Mission Impossible into Mission Accomplished by breathing life into the seventh instalment of the four-decade-long franchise and, to the delight of Star Warriors across the globe and in a galaxy far, far away, ensuring that the fight between The Force and The Dark Side is To Be Continued.

If, on the other hand, you share my distant appreciation of all things sci-fi and lack the photographic memory of the conveyor belt of zed-list and half-pissed I’m A Celebrity Get Me A Career contributors to festive shows such as 100 Greatest Films and 100 Grating Minutes of Utter Tedium, fret not for The Force Awakens is a pleasing romp which combines something old with something new, deadpan humour with breathtaking visual effects and lump in your throat with jump out your seat moments of splendour. Though save yourself a couple of pounds on the obligatory Roy Orbison 3D specs, for yet again the illusion of depth adds nothing to the movie-going experience that the dimensions of height and width can’t satisfy.

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According to the old-school crawling graphics which disappear poignantly into the star-studded distance like an old friend waving goodbye, the goody-two-shoes Luke Skywalker has vanished and his sister Princess-turned-General Leia leads the resistance against the boo-hiss baddies from the First Order who are hell-bent on locating the illusive Luke and crushing both him and the Republic into oblivion. Exposition over, resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his trusty droid BB-8 (a bleeping beach ball in need of a volley) cross paths with Stormtrooper FN-2187 aka Finn (John Boyega) who has literally seen the light and ditched the Dark Side “because it’s the right thing to do.”

Armed with a USB which details the longitude and latitude of Luke, they top the First Order’s Most Wanted list. Thrusters fire up on full power, fighter planes illuminate the night sky and an intergalactic game of cat and mouse continues on foot as Poe & Co crash-land on the desert planet of Jakku. Separated in battle, Finn and BB-8 engage in a series of cryptic conversations reminiscent of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo and join forces with Rey (Daisey Ridley), a distant descendent of Albert Steptoe who trades scrap metal for sustenance. The boo-hiss baddies locate their whereabouts, chase them here, there and thither, until they eventually team up with the Ghost of Christmas Past Hans Solo and his sasquatch sidekick Chewbacca. Will their lightsabres fend off the forces of evil? Or will the Dark Side reign supreme? Either way, there will be blood!

Newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are impressive. The former a steely-eyed warrior guarding a sliver of vulnerability, the latter a doe-eyed rebel with a fine deadpan delivery. “Oh, stay calm! Stay calm!” he repeatedly hollers as they run in fear of their lives from a squadron of sharpshooting Stormtroopers. “I am calm,” replies a nonchalant Rey.” To which Finn counters, comedically: “I’m talking to myself.” Harrison Ford dusts off his Raiders of the Lost Ark fedora and adopts a laconic “less is more” approach to performing. And the score by five-time Oscar-winning composer John Williams is, as ever, sublime contrasting the ethereal flute of Rey’s entrance with the brooding strings of the fascist First Order.

For Star Warriors (or whatever the collective term for a group of Star Wars fans is), Christmas has come early. For film footsoldiers like myself, it’s an enjoyable escape from reality and more importantly from 100 Greatest Reality TV Moments. Though, at times, dramatic tension plays second fiddle to the twin objectives of laying out the exposition and setting up the sequel. As alluded to by the goggle-eyed space pirate Maz (Lupita Nyong’o) who advises Rey that: “The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead.”

Verdict: 4/5
by Peter Callaghan

2 Comments on Star Wars: The Force awakens – a pleasing romp with humour and breathtaking visual effects

  1. Say someone hadn’t seen the original three films for years and had never seen the next three prequels, would they know what is going on if they watched this?

  2. I hadn’t seen the original three films for years, and I haven’t seen all of the prequels, but I understood who was who and what was what because the back story and the relationships between the characters are clearly and repeatedly explained.

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