‘There has been an awakening…’
While watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I snuck a cheeky glance behind me to gauge the audience’s take on arguably the most anticipated film of all time.
Smirks stretched from cheek to cheek, and eyes beamed with childish joy as they glistened with the reflection of the screen they were so intensely focused on.
No other franchise can do this. This is Star Wars, where a mere line like “Chewie, we’re home” sends people into fits of screaming, crying, or more likely both in tandem.
Any chance to see the bold yellow outline burst onto the big screen accompanied by John Williams’ spine-tingling score is cause for celebration in and of itself.
Of course, it’s what happens after said introduction that has proven to be the big unknown ever since 1999’s The Phantom Menace.
Tasked with what will surely stand as the biggest test of his career (one he originally turned down), Director J.J. Abrams has managed to resurrect the most recognisable film franchise of all time, restoring it to the heights of the original trilogy while forging a path in its own right.
You can truly tell it’s a fellow fan behind the camera, and fellow fans in front of it, with love and care going into nearly every single shot, line, and glance put on film.
Nostalgia permeates the film, with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) relishing the chance to make the jump to light speed once more, while Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke (Mark Hamill) appear sparingly enough to prompt a rush of giddiness whenever they appear on screen.
Still though, the film is not a one-trick pony. Indeed, perhaps the greatest feat Abrams has achieved is crafting a film able to stand on its own two feet despite the considerable weight it carries from its past.
Make no mistake, there is nostalgia abound in The Force Awakens, but there is an equal (if not greater) amount of time devoted to the franchise’s new stalwarts.
Daisy Ridley and John Boyega turn in brilliant performances as Rey and Finn respectively, while Adam Driver does the best with what he is given to ensure main villain Kylo Ren isn’t relegated to a one-dimensional plot device.
John Williams puts together a score that reminds all listening that, in case they may have forgotten, he has secured himself a spot in the pantheon of composing greats.
All this combines to make the personal journeys of these characters thrilling, which is an absolute essential given the generic plot. Indeed, The Force Awakens borrows heavily from the stories of the original trilogy, particularly A New Hope, to the point where Han even makes a coy remark or two about the familiarity of the mission at hand.
The action is superb, and it’s clear there was a specific goal to use as little CGI as possible. Gone are the robotic droids of the prequels, replaced with the stormtroopers of old, although with slightly better aim (they could actually hit the side of a barn door now… barely) and substantially more humanised, mainly realised through main character Finn. Also, the lightsaber battles are yet another callback to the trilogy of old, forgoing blatant showboating choreography in favour of grittier, more ‘realistic’ (I’m aware it’s still Star Wars) battles.
Of course, in today’s age of Marvel-movie-a-minute-mania, there’s always bound to be forward thinking when it comes to major film franchises, and The Force Awakens is no different. It teeters dangerously close to the edge of teasing what’s to come at the expense of enjoying the story ‘here and now’, but manages to avoid the curse films like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 had to bear, providing The Force Awakens with a story that truly means something while leaving audience goers thirsty for more.
A scene post-climax in particular (again, no spoilers I promise) is bound to have fans racing to their nearest Internet Cafe (those are still a thing, right?) to book tickets for Episode Eight.
As I looked around the cinema and saw the smiles, backs hunched forward, and occasional tears, I couldn’t help but realise just how special this franchise has become, and will continue to become for a new generation from this point forward.
If there’s one piece of advice I can leave, it’s to enjoy the anticipation, the feeling of unadulterated excitement. Rarely does a film become an ‘event’ in the way Star Wars: The Force Awakens has.
Even rarer is said events living up to the (quite literally) astronomical expectations surrounding it and, while no effort could have possibly reached such lofty heights, J.J Abrams and the team behind him have crafted something leaving us eager to return to a galaxy far far away forevermore.
Welcome back Star Wars.
Rating – 8.5 / 10
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out now in Australia, and on the 18th December in the US
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher