The latest in the Star Wars saga is a welcome throw back to the barnstorming action of the Star Wars- Empire Strikes Back- Return Of The Jedi trilogy. Directed by J.J Abrams, whose science fiction CV includes Cloverfield and Star Trek, there was always that lingering question about whether he would be able to match the levels of excellence achieved by its original creator/director George Lucas. No mean task considering it is the biggest franchise in box office history.
The plot revolves around the recovery of a map which shows the coveted hideout of Luke Skywalker. The imperial forces have long since been destroyed but in its place has sprung the First Order seeking the destruction of Skywalker the last Jedi. They are led by mini Vader Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is of Vader’s bloodline but without the helmet looks a lot like a pre-Raphaelite artist. Can he match his grandfather’s levels of planet destroying wickedness? Well he does destroy one or two planets, so if there was ever a merit badge for being the chip off an old block he’d probably get it.
For those who felt the last few movies in the franchise were a bit lukewarm in the plot and characterisation department this isn’t an issue here. Your expectation of what a Star Wars movie means is given an unapologetic festive season spring clean by the introduction of plucky junk scavenger Rey in the opening scenes. Daisy Ridley plays this strong, warrior spirited female lead who (without giving away too many spoilers) is a little more than just a simple trader living on junkyard planet Jakku. She’s certainly a ‘force’ to be reckoned with.
Black British actor John Boyega’s selection as Fin, a storm trooper with a clash of conscience will be a similar wake up call for Star Wars diehards. The internet was awash with comments from racist fans upset about a black face in white armour. However, it has to be mentioned that they were dwarfed by those in support. His is one of the standout performances so there! He is a convincing protagonist whose growing companionship with Rey and their commitment to defeating the First Order he once served says everything about how the force is ultimately a force for good. Hopefully it will work on some of those racist fans.
Harrison Ford charms as Han Solo, concluding his decades long pursuit of his stolen Millennium Falcon with an unscheduled hookup with Rey and Fin. Junkyard planet Jakku figures strongly here, because it was swiped by one of their scavenger settlers. Add sidekick Chewie to the gang and they emerge as a quartet to be reckoned with. And what a return to the Star Wars of old! The resurrection of the Solo-Chewie double act is an interesting one because as expected, mother nature has gifted Solo a lined brow and grey hairs but his furry sidekick hasn’t aged one day. It must be all those L’Oreal adverts. Either that or some unexplained time leap affect during their numerous Millennium Falcon hyperspace gear changes. Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa (Princess Leia) and Mark Hamill as aging rebel leader Luke Skywalker complete a welcome and well timed Christmas reunion for all us movie sentimentalists.
All in all, an absorbing, movie that had you caring about the characters (particularly your old trilogy favourites) and on the edge of your seat sharing the bumpy rides of their cosmic exploits rather than looking for the cinema exit. Some fans felt short changed by the film’s ending. I wasn’t one of them. You have to understand that it is a franchise, so there’s more to come. The ending has to leave you feeling that way. So for better or worse, the ending worked.
Photo Courtesy: Star Wars: The Force Awakens theatrical poster