Film Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

A potted introduction to Star Wars, ahead of our Open Air Cinema screening at Mount Edgcumbe on August 20th, by Nigel Watson. 

Star Wars blasted onto our cinema screens in 1977 and took us to a galaxy created by the imagination of George Lucas. To everyone’s surprise it was worldwide sensation, allowing Lucas to produce two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). A trilogy of prequel films set 30 years before Star Wars was released between 1999 and 2005, causing the original film to be subtitled, Episode IV: A New Hope. Over this period there have been numerous video games, novels and animated TV series based on the Star Wars universe, and a 3D animated feature film Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008) set in the period between the live action feature film Episodes II (Attack of the Clones) and III (Revenge of the Sith).

The Walt Disney Company purchased the rights to Star Wars in 2012, and immediately announced they would produce a trilogy of films set 30 years after The Return of the Jedi. The Force Awakens is the product of this new regime, directed by J.J. Abrams who successfully rebooted the Star Trek film franchise in 2009.

Considering the legacy of films and the weight of expectation it is great to see that this film goes back to basics and provides a story that newcomers can enjoy and understand, as well as satisfying the demands of ardent fans.  Indeed, it uses the original movie as a template for the action here but replaces the character of Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill) with a strong self-sufficient young woman, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Like Luke, Rey stumbles across a robot droid (BB-8) that carries information that can help the democratic New Republic fight the evil intentions of the First Order that has risen from the embers of the Galactic Empire.

Not long after encountering BB-8, Rey teams up with Finn (John Boyega) who has deserted his role as a First Order stormtrooper. Taking the Millennium Falcon spaceship from a junk yard they escape from the planet Jakku, and come into contact with the original owners of the craft Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his giant shaggy partner Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

The adventure continues, bringing in new characters and mixing them with the old until we reach a climax that sets us on a new path for Star Wars: Episode VIII scheduled for release in late 2017.

At its heart the Star Wars franchise is about the battle between good and evil, it has baddies like the iconic Darth Vader and good guys and gals like Luke Skywalker and formerly princess, now General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).  John Williams’ film score powerfully pulls at our emotions as it harks back to his original scoring, the special effects go far beyond anything imagined in 1977 and Dan Mindel’s cinematography is equally stunning.

A perfect film to watch in the open air and be nostalgic for a galaxy far, far away a long time ago.

Nigel Watson



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