A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, millions of fans waited with bated breath for the first Star Wars movie in many years. Well, it was only 1999, the movie was The Phantom Menace and said fans walked away with their hearts and spirits crushed.
I remember that feeling far too well. And that was the unspoken fear we all had: that J.J. Abrams would do it all over again, and leave us in tears.
Well. He didn’t.
It’s going to be hard to give you a The Force Awakens review without spoilers, but here goes. There is a very good reason that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) hasn’t been seen in the trailers thus far – in fact, it’s at the very heart of the plot.
We begin with ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, a latter-day Han Solo if ever there was one, leather jacket and all), who has been sent on a secret mission by General Leia (a sparkly Carrie Fisher). He’s to retrieve vital information from an old ally named Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow, quietly brilliant in what little screen time he has).
Before we know it, we’re dropped right into the heart of a pitched battle where we meet Kylo Ren (an especially sinister Adam Driver) of the First Order a.k.a. the bad guys. And the action is brilliantly choreographed throughout, from an extended chase with the Millennium Falcon to Stormtroopers taking on the Resistance to a climactic light saber battle.
Then we meet our other key players on the desert planet Jakku – deserting Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and the lonely scavenger Rey (an excellent, excellent Daisy Ridley). Aided by Han Solo (Harrison Ford, as charming and roguish and funny as ever) and a whole lot of his finger pointing, they will come together to aid the Resistance in its time of need.
What makes The Force Awakens work so well is Abrams’ understanding of what made the original movies so popular: a simple tale of good vs evil, populated by compelling, charismatic characters and a more than healthy dose of humour. It’s a principle George seemed to have forgotten in the prequels.
The old gang are all on top form, and don’t look out of place at all. Plus, Abrams has chosen the newer players – and successors – well. For Luke, Leia, Han and Darth Vader, read Finn, Rey, Poe Dameron and Kylo Ren, respectively. The quartet are more than worthy successors to the original, and the moment when Leia embraces Rey feels especially FEELS because it’s nothing less than a passing of the torch.
Now we come to the movie’s flaws. Is there anything particularly original about it? Not at all. In fact, the plot will feel very, very familiar. But then again, after the travesty that was the prequels, fans like me weren’t exactly looking to break new ground. We wanted something familiar and comforting, wrapped in new packaging. And judging by the cheers that went up from the audience every time someone/something familiar appeared, we wanted it very badly indeed.
So fans of the originals will like this movie very, very much. Unlike Abrams’ reboot of another beloved franchise, there’s more than enough of the old stuff to enthrall, mixed in with just enough of the new to excite.
Be warned: there is a very big twist coming in the final act, though even that feels kind of familiar. But whatever it is, The Force Awakens is more than worth your time. So watch it, kick back and feel the feels you had when you first watched Star Wars all those years ago.
Then shed a little tear or two. Go on, you know you will.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in Singapore today.