Three decades on from Return Of The Jedi and Star Wars fans can finally breathe again, safe in the knowledge that we have finally got the sci-fi movie we’ve all been looking for. After the bitter disappointment of the three prequels in 1999, 2002 and 2005, Star Wars creator George Lucas handed over the directing reins to Star Trek and Lost’s JJ Abrams, and his movie – the first in a whole new series of films – reinvigorates the famous franchise while also delivering something of a greatest hits for all those people who have grown up with the legends of Jedis, the Force, the Empire and the Rebellion.
Set 30(ish) years after Episode Six (Return Of The Jedi), this seventh episode begins by telling us that the bad guys have risen again, now calling themselves the First Order, and their plan is to wipe out the Resistance even if it means obliterating a few planets along the way. Both sides are searching for the last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Hamill) who has vanished, and crack resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac) has managed to hide a map that may lead to Luke’s location inside a cuddly droid named BB-8. On desert planet Jakku, BB-8 falls into the hands of sparky scavenger Rey (Ridley) and ex-stormtrooper-turned-good-guy Finn (Boyega), and as they attempt to get the droid to the resistance, old friends and new enemies aid and hinder them on their journey.
There is a new masked baddie, Kylo Ren (Driver) and mysterious overlord (the Supreme leader, a giant creature played by Andy Serkis) providing some nicely dark creepiness and a few funny moments when Ren has a hissy fit that you can’t ever imagine Darth Vader would have resorted to. In fact, Ren may be one of the most interesting bad guys Star Wars has ever had, a young man battling not to be seduced by the light side (yes, you read that right), he has a gripping journey through this first movie that makes you want to know more about him.
While the new cast are terrific, especially Boyega who has ‘movie star’ stamped all over him, for fans of the original movies the true joy here is seeing our favourite double act Han (Ford) and Chewie (Peter Mayhew) back together again, along with their rickety ship the Millennium Falcon. Without revealing too much, it’s great to be able to say that their roles are more than mere cameos, and they are, of course, joined on the screen by a host of familiar faces including Carrie Fisher as Leia, C-3P0 and R2-D2.
There are battles galore – one assumes the reason this has gained a 12A rating in the UK is the blaster and lightsaber fights (plus a teeny bit of torture using the Force), but worried parents can rest assured there is nothing in The Force Awakens that kids haven’t seen in the previous films and certainly nothing as nasty as Anakin getting fried at the end of Revenge of the Sith.
There are also many of the ingredients we all loved from the Star Wars universe in the past, from crashes to sarcastic comments to secret plans hidden in droids to a bar not dissimilar to the cantina in Mos Eisley, that makes this as familiar as your favourite cosy chair.
Yes, familiarity with the Star Wars universe may mean you can predict some of the twists, but thanks to great performances, a fun script, pacy direction and some stunning sets, you’ll want to embrace that comfy chair, sit back and enjoy the best Star Wars ride since The Empire Strikes Back.
Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
Kids under the age of 9 may find the supreme leader (who is a bit like a gigantic Gollum) a bit scary.
Kylo Ren is a mask-wearing bad guy but no scarier than Darth Vader for kids.
There are numerous battles involving lightsabers, blasters etc and you do see characters die which may upset sensitive viewers.
Young viewers may be upset by the early scenes where stormtroopers fire on a desert village, killing the inhabitants.
Viewers may also be upset by the death of a character.
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