ANTICIPATION and expectation could not have been any higher for this long-awaited latest entry in the Star Wars saga.
Considering the reception to the largely soulless, over-digitised prequels released in 1999, 2002 and 2005 was generally lukewarm, this is the comeback to form fans have been craving.
With complete confidence, verve and respect for die-hard fans, co-writer and director J. J. Abrams (no stranger to reboots, with Star Trek under his belt already) has brought the popular film series screaming back to the big screen – and it is a treat and a thrill.
Even those not completely immersed in the Star Wars sub-culture should enjoy the zippy action sequences, cute sidekicks and amusing one-liners fans have come to love from the original trilogy.
Thirty years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983), Jedi Luke Skywalker has disappeared and is being sought by Kylo Ren, who uses the dark side of the Force.
Scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and defector Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) are thrown together to protect droid BB-8, which carries the last piece of a map leading to Skywalker’s location.
There are old faces and throwbacks to past films but Abrams refuses to rest on nostalgia.
He has captured the spirit of George Lucas’ original creation, something Lucas failed to do with the recent prequels, but also brings a modern, visceral kick.
He has moved the story forward, opted for practical effects over digital, created strong, exciting new characters and included classic twists.
It is only in the pacing that he falters.
While the speed in the first half is first rate, once every character is introduced the timing falters slightly leading to the big payoff.
The degree of quality of the performances also varies throughout the film, with the actors relishing the quips but struggling with the melodrama.
It is hard to imagine any fans being disappointed with this entry, but even the minority surely cannot resist the ending that hints at more to come.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (M)
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
Four and a half stars
Review by Julian Wright
In cinemas now