Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new evil threatens the galaxy. Conscience-stricken stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) makes a fateful decision that eventually brings him together with droid-on-a-mission BB-8 and a downtrodden, yet fiercely determined scavenger girl named Rey (Daisy Ridley). Together the young heroes embark on an intergalactic adventure, aided by some familiar faces from the Resistance and pursued by relentless Sith lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), in search of the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
As children many of us created imaginary Star Wars sequels with our action figures. Now, fan- turned-pro J.J. Abrams grabs his chance to play with the ultimate Star Wars toy-box of Lucasfilm itself and revitalizes the much-beloved franchise for a new generation. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film infused with a fan's enthusiasm, riddled with delightful grace notes alluding to the saga's illustrious past, yet more importantly driven by a gifted storyteller's determination to push the mythos into uncharted emotional territory. Abrams' triumph goes beyond simply convincing Harrison Ford to reprise his iconic role as Han Solo although Ford is everything you would want and more as the grayer, grizzled, guilt-ridden yet inescapably cool space rogue. Where Abrams and his team truly succeed is that they have rescued Star Wars from CGI sterility of the recent past and restored its stirring emotional core.
More than any other entry since The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Force Awakens is the Star Wars film to make you cheer, laugh and weep in reaction to a disarmingly nuanced, emotionally charged story. To a large extent Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan (welcome back, sir!) and Michael Arndt (of Toy Story 3 (2010) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006)) reshape themes and motifs familiar from the earlier movies. Yet they do so not just with a keen grasp of what sets a fan's heart a-flutter but a shrewd understanding of the Star Wars' story's twisted, Oedipal heart: a cyclical tragedy of broken dreams, star-crossed romance, weird sibling relationships and the sins of fathers echoed in the deeds of their tormented children. Seriously, on a psychological level, this saga has always been disturbing as heck.
Opening with a bang the film maintains a pulse-pounding pace staging an exhilarating action sequence almost every ten minutes. Abrams might not be the master of sound and editing George Lucas was but, rather like his heroine Rey, with childlike glee and infectious creativity takes old toys apart and rebuilds them as something shiny, wondrous and new. Here the Millennium Falcon performs the miraculous maneuvers you dreamed of seeing when you were ten years old. Due credit to Abrams and his team the breakneck space action proves exciting without straying into Michael Bay levels of overkill. Between battles Abrams, Kasdan and Arndt are unafraid to take a breath and savour the odd poignant character moment. For example, desert rat Rey's awed reaction to a lush and verdant planet, her engaging dynamic with the likeably flawed Finn and emotional interaction with Han Solo. Just as Lucas drew upon the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, Abrams incorporates his own grab-bag of influences. Fittingly The Wizard of Oz (1939) though also such surprising sources as Robin and Marian (1976) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962) abound among the emotional beats. In what might be a response to the fact Star Wars is not the only space opera franchise on the block anymore, a lively midsection with amusing antics aboard the Millennium Falcon comes across like a deleted scene from Guardians of the Galaxy (2014).
Newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are appealing additions to the series. Making the most of meaty story arcs, the young stars combine the fresh-faced enthusiasm of the original iconic trio with very modern layers of grit, sass and moral complexity. At the centre of this grandiose pulp opera are two lost, troubled, flawed human beings trying to sort right from wrong and make sense of this craziness. The genius of the original Star Wars trilogy, wherein a farm boy went on an intergalactic adventure that changed him in ways he did not expect, inspired millions of young film fans. The genius of The Force Awakens is here a girl, who embodies those same children reared on the original mythos, goes on an intergalactic journey that not only changes her in ways she did not expect but enables her to revitalize the source of that inspirational myth. In a beautifully moving gesture, The Force Awakens has youth revitalize age, a Star Wars fan restore the mythos that inspired them, the present unite with the past for the promise of a brighter future.