20 December 2015

The Force is strong with this one

JJ Abrams' first installment of the next Star Wars trilogy is hugely, deeply derivative. It intentionally mimics the original film to such an extent that scenes can often prove quite predictable to seasoned Star Wars fans. It's as if an identikit portrait of a successful Star Wars sequel was stitched together out of the components most actuarily likely to result in a blockbuster.

And thank goodness for that, because The Force Awakens is every bit as exciting and engrossing as its greatest fans had hoped. In it, Abrams has managed to pull off a truly impressive feat - satisfying old and new devotees, producing a story that is instantly recognisable as a carbon(ite) copy of the original trilogy, but one that is simply so much fun to watch that all concerns of repetition are banished. In lesser hands this could have been tedious, but Abrams knows the right elements and how to arrange them expertly.

Key to reinvigorating the franchise (ugh) is the casting. The new, young castmembers are uniformly excellent and potential major stars in the waiting, with Daisy Ridley in particular standing out for her steely determination and old-fashioned pluck as the scavenger Rey from the quite-like-Tatooine-actually desert world of Jakku. With the stars of the original trilogy aging gracefully, it was definitely time to both give them their moment in the spotlight and then move on to the boisterous energy of new-found heroes like Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver.

The remarkable skill of the filmmaker shows in the sense of momentum onscreen, which never flags despite a 135-minute running time. There's so much plot that it feels as if two whole films have elapsed by the time you reach the end, but it never commits the ultimate sin of being boring at any point. And it's such a relief to see a major sci-fi epic that understands the importance of providing strong female lead roles and a truly multicultural cast.

Half a star knocked off for the familiar storyline and for the unforgivably naff villain name ('Supreme Leader Snoke'?!) but realistically no-one should quibble with entertainment this powerful. See it in the best cinema you can, and then see it again, because you'll definitely want to!

See also:
Movies: Love & Mercy, 21 July 2015
Movies: Oil City Confidential, 4 July 2015
Movies: The Ground We Won, 8 May 2015
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