Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review ****

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***MILD SPOILERS AHEAD***

The second most anticipated film of the year (right after the trailer for the new Star Trek) Star Wars: The Force Awakens has some big boots to fill. The franchise that had (and has) millions of grown ups buying overpriced toys, spawning thousands of books, cartoons, unofficial films and some official ones we’d rather forget (*cough* Holiday special,) even if you never laid eyes in one of the movies, you certainly know a lot about them (“Lucas, I am your Daddy” and all those incestuous happenings). So how does it fare, this Episode VII?

J. Abrams, together with much loved screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) went full on original trilogy, reviving several character arcs and giving them to some new people. Rogue stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) decides the dark side may not be for him, after villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) captures super Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Meanwhile, Poe’s adorable droid, BB-8, meets scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and asks for help to deliver a map that tells the secret location of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In the middle, some Han Solo, Chewbacca and Leia (now General Organa), because feelings.

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It’s a return to the spirit of the originals, and Abrams decides to ignore the ill-fated prequels and go big on nostalgia, yet still with a modern flavour. It isn’t just the superior special effects, and the delicious pleasure of finally seeing a freaking well edited lightsaber duel (thank you, Maryann Brandon and Mary Jo Markey) – it’s the humour, the geekiness, in sum, it’s a Star Wars movie made by a true Star Wars fan, one that keeps on apologizing for those prequels. It’s no coincidence the first sentence to be said on screen is “This will start to make things right”. Actually, the only thing missing was the head of Jar-Jar Binks on a silver plate, but hey, there are still two movies to go.

Easiest. Paycheck. EVER.

Casually dropping the film’s biggest secret in the first half like a pair of panties in a brothel – the true identity of Kylo Ren – Abrams and Kasdan certainly leave us with even more questions by the end – a true cliffhanger, by an actual cliff. 2017 can’t come soon enough for Hamill to justify his paycheck. Having Finn, who has been marketed as the protagonist, assume a somehow secondary role, leaves the stage for Rey Mystery Surname to kick some ass and join Furiosa among the female cinematic role models for 2015. Indeed, having a female protagonist may have been too much for certain people (the Disney marketing department is still in denial) particularly when she’s so badass against Disney Princess Teenage Angst Kylo Ren. To some she’s just too good – it is strange to see a woman on screen actually being able to run without holding hands, piloting a spaceship AND using the Force – but hey, it’s probably all down to genetics and bacterial midichlorians.

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Alas, some plot holes and a weak soundtrack (compared to the previous six films, John Williams seems to be playing it safe) make Star Wars: The Force Awakens less of a perfect film and more of a, well, mega blockbuster sequel from a much loved epic space opera. Still, come for the hype, stay for the humour, spot the famous person cameo, and dare to enjoy. This is a fairy tale in a galaxy far, far away. Use the Force and leave the whining at home. We dare you not to buy one of those BB-8 toys after. 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been on UK cinemas from 17th December 2015.

Sara is originally from Coimbra, Portugal, where she studied Film Studies before moving to London to enrol in film school. Having made her first short film about her neighbour's chickens when she was 9 (a dystopian sci-fi, still her favourite genre), she is now a London-based film director and editor, and also a writer for the Portuguese Take Magazine. She is a huge fan of Lars Von Trier, Krysztof Kiéslowski, and David Lean.