Magazine article Screen International

Star Wars: The Force Awakens': Review

Magazine article Screen International

Star Wars: The Force Awakens': Review

Article excerpt

Dir: J.J. Abrams. US. 2015. 135mins

Robustly entertaining while carrying the weight of impossible audience expectations, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a fascinating, often satisfying mixture of rollicking mythmaking and fan service. As with many recent franchises restarting their creative and commercial juices, the seventh instalment of this iconic sci-fiseries feels spread a little thin, trying to satisfy long-time supporters while introducing fresh energy and new characters. But after the uninspired prequels, most will simply be happy to know that director J.J. Abrams has delivered a properly swashbuckling Star Wars adventure.

Launching across the globe this week, The Force Awakens is a guaranteed box-office juggernaut, the only question being just how massive the haul will be. Bringing together the original trilogy's stars - Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher - and adding rising talents such as Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, the film should benefit from good reviews and glowing word-of-mouth. The Force Awakens will almost certainly eclipse $1b worldwide, which doesn't even factor in the lucrative licensing agreements made by Disney, which bought George Lucas's Lucasfilm and now owns one of cinema's most enduring properties.

Set decades after Return Of The Jedi, The Force Awakens explains early on that beloved Jedi Luke Skywalker (Hamill) has disappeared, prompting his sister Leia (Fisher), the leader of the Resistance, to send her top soldiers to find him. A Resistance fighter pilot named Poe (Isaac) tracks down a partial map that offers clues to Luke's whereabouts, but he - alongside an ex-stormtrooper named Finn (an enormously likable Boyega) and Rey (Ridley), a lowly scavenger - must work together to keep the information away from the fearsome First Order, which has replaced the Empire as the galaxy's malevolent aggressor.

Working with screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi) and Michael Arndt, Abrams brings the same wide-eyed, slightly cheeky tone he previously inserted into the recent Star Trek reboots and Mission: Impossible III. Although The Force Awakens exhibits the original trilogy's stylistic hallmarks - transitional wipes, an opening explanatory crawl - Abrams introduces a self-aware, warmly nostalgic humour that wryly undercuts this space opera's life-or-death stakes.

Which isn't to say that Abrams is only interested in a fond trip down memory lane. A powerful Jedi, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who has been seduced by the Dark Side, wants to help the First Order crush the Resistance, and Rey and Finn have to discover untapped courage if they are to thwart this masked foe. …

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