Star Wars: The Force Awakens (dir. J.J. Abrams, 2016) – Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new rebel resistance rises against The First Order’s threats against the galaxy.
Aimed well at childhoods rooted in George Lucas’ epic universe, The Force Awakens nostalgic excitement with a glimpse into what is to come.
The 1970s return in 2016, as the likes of Westworld and Suspiria surface again through fresh eyes. Of course, the majority of cinephiles would be excited for the revival of Star Wars, where the force awakens our inner 12-year-olds in a fond memory far, far away…
Helming the long-awaited sequel, director J.J. Abrams has a colossal challenge at hand. In a galaxy where fans covet faithful adaptations as much as fresh takes, any slight tip in the balance would be nothing short of a stinging anathema.
Fresh from rebooting Star Trek, the sci-fi veteran fortunately knows the way into our deep-seated nostalgia. He adeptly moulds new but familiar heroes (and heroines), narrowly escaping being nicknamed Jar Jar Abrams forever. And so the planetary war wages on again, as though it never really ended 38 years ago.
Amid fiery chaos of an obliterated village, the First Order leader makes a formidable entrance behind his emblematic mask and cloak. Before his legion of the dark Empire, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) does well in building his villainous presence by delivery rather than accessory. Yet with a history unknown and motives muted, his almost unaccountable hatred seems racked with the usual problem of guaranteed sequels – a lacking back story.
Fanfare meets more disappointment as his commander Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) suffers the same, having no more than five lines to make up for her absent story. Like a sharp sword never unsheathed, her chromium-armoured knight goes to waste as a fleeting cameo.
The neglect of the Dark Side is in part due to a strong focus on the good guys, which is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the grounding of fresh blood would be a tremendous test for this new film, with Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo rooted firmly in our minds and hearts.
In swoops smart-mouthed X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), whose deep space trouble inspires the courageous rebellion of former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega). The pair forms an unexpected alliance against a common enemy, their charisma and humour winning over the most stubborn of old fans. Be that as it may, this is not their story.
Poe’s droid BB-8 finds a leading companion in Rey (Daisy Ridley), her isolated life and mysterious past immediately pointing to echoes of a pre-eminent Skywalker. Yet with endless valiance and ample spunk, she wields the lightsaber on her own. Rey’s becoming of a Jedi reignites the spirit of A New Hope, conjuring plenty of intrigue despite a frustratingly incomplete narrative.
Granted that she gets thrown into a reductive monomyth where good stands versus evil, Star Wars gets a free pass for it is what it is – a space fantasy adventure of light against dark. Hearts skip beats when Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher return (among others), apprising fans of the happenings between then and now with their refurbished titles.
“Chewie, we are home,” proclaims Han Solo in his cameo aboard the polished Millennium Falcon, as though readying us for the passing of the torch to the next generation.
While we anticipate the coming sequels to fill in the missing pieces, the new crew should have no qualms leaving the disappointing prequels behind, with confidence aplenty to resume an enduring legacy of a much beloved universe.