Pictures: ©Lucasfilm LTD
For about half of my life I was one of the most devout Star Wars fans around, then something happened that left me languishing in apathy and ennui.
I think it had a lot to do with when George Lucas treated us to the remastered versions of the original films back in 1997, with their crudely placed CGI and pointless tamperings.
Then by 1999 Lucas decided to unleash a trilogy so dreary and devoid of charm it kind of tainted any remaining childhood memories of the original films, leaving me to suppress any feeling of joy connected to the Star Wars franchise.
When asked to review Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was sure that J. J. Abrams, with the benefit of hindsight would be delivering something vastly greater than the painfully dull Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and the other one.
The real question was, whether he could deliver something at least better than The Battle for Endor.
I would like to make you comfortable by letting you know there are no spoilers in this review.
[alert type=white ]I would like to make you comfortable by letting you know there are no spoilers in this review.[/alert]
I am very happy to say there is no doubt about it. It is brilliant, a huge space adventure that indulges the nostalgia of the first three films whilst simultaneously bringing the franchise up to date with well deployed special effects and a story that is essentially a reworking of the first film but modernised, setting a foundation for the next generation of the franchise.
The film starts by introducing us to the new threat to the galaxy; The First Order, a new group of space-fascists led by the mysterious Supreme Leader (Andy Serkis).
The First Order bring a real feeling of evil to the film, one of the most tiring aspects of the prequel films was the annoying robot troopers, but here we are back with the Stormtroopers, this time better equipped, and following orders with cold brutal efficiency.
The arch-protagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a vicious and petulant character full of self-doubt and loathing, attired in drab robes and a mask that looks like a cheap Darth Vader knock-off stuck on a German world war II helmet.
General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is another character that quickly establishes the level of evil that our heroes are dealing with, one scene has him addressing masses of troops a la Nuremburg rallies with an evil fascistic oration style that oscillates between Mosely and Thatcher.
The two new main characters Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are excellent as the next generation Star Wars heroes and as lead characters are a very welcome change to the generic “black guy as a sidekick” and “girl that needs a man’s-help-formula” that we are used to seeing in Hollywood action blockbusters.
Then there is the return of the faces from the original films; honestly, when they first appeared on screen it felt like I was being re-introduced to family members I hadn’t seen in years.
Oh, how I missed my family!
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) deploys his wonderfully dry 80s action flick humour throughout whilst casually dispatching Stormtroopers. The relationship between Han, Chewie and Princess Leia remains just as endearing and entertaining to watch as it did the first time round.
Throughout the film we are treated to a number of battles and shoot-outs and as I mentioned earlier the Stormtroopers are back, as are the Tie fighters and X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon so expect old school action re-worked for a present day appetite.
One of the great things about the battles in the original Star Wars films was the simultaneous action taking place in space and on land and this is a tradition that Abrams has continued with.
The battles do not disappoint and are at times quite brutal with people being run through with light sabres or or meeting their end at the wrong end of a laser blaster.
The whole film looks absolutely wonderful too, spread across many familiar looking environs; from a Tatooine-looking desert to a frozen Hoth-looking tundra.
The vehicle and technology design is very clever and bears many similarities to the original films, the resulting combination of a modern reworking of a film that relies on those well-known space age relics of the past manifests itself in a wonderful retro-futuristic aesthetic.
All in all, it is an absolutely wonderful cinematic experience that could be enjoyed by anyone regardless of their Star Wars knowledge, it could even work as a stand-alone film.
Initially I had wondered whether I would feel anything for this film or regain any of the affection I had for Star Wars when I was a kid.
That was answered when in one scene a squadron of X-Wing fighters flew past and I nearly stood up and saluted them.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in cinemas on December 16.