Thursday, 17 December 2015
EPISODE VII: THE AFICIONADO REVIEW
Coming to the screen with verve, vitality and bundles of enthusiasm- each frame clearly and lovingly thought out by director J.J. Abrams, THE FORCE AWAKENS is a triumph of heart-felt escapism and certainly a very, very welcome return to that galaxy far, far away. Its bam, bam, bam from the get-go as it sends its all ages audiences on a rollercoaster ride through an invigorating two and a bit hours, given additional and heightened emotional resonance via John Williams classy score, introducing a tremendous new group of young stars in the process: I challenge anyone not to fall in love with Daisy Ridley the moment they see her as the tomboy scavenger Rey, whose dreams of the stars and a life beyond her meagre existence become realised in the most unexpected way, nor cheer along John Boyega's spirited but vulnerable stormtrooper turned unlikely hero who needs a purpose as the do-the-right-thing Finn, or raise a salute to the flying ace skills of Oscar Isaac's daring hotshot pilot Poe Dameron and his irresistible blend of humour and loyalty that is his BB-8 droid- well, I want one- now! But the genuine standout for me had to be Adam Driver, as the troubled and psychotically destructive Kylo Ren- Driver is a real film star in the making here, clearly raising the bar in onscreen co-developing a villain long-term worthy of Darth Vader.
And then there's the original "Classic" cast whom we've all cared about and now joyously celebrate the return of: Carrie Fisher's warmth and renewed strength as General Leia Organa, whilst Harrison Ford's Han Solo is older, crankier but just as heroic and crafty as ever- the actor totally superb from the get-go, slipping effortlessly back into character and sharing some wonderful camaraderie with the wookiee Chewbacca, both of whom are given new depths and new problems to become immersed in. Oh yes, let's not forget Mark Hamill, either... but you'll just have to wait and see what happens there- his participation in THE FORCE AWAKENS clearly being part of a huge new game plan for future films, within a whole plethora of well-thought out surprises bringing freshness and charm to this next trilogy chapter of the franchise.
Creator George Lucas's incredible and fertile imagination, alongside his ability to think out of the box, is certainly missed in places: his Prequels may be derided in some quarters, but long-term, as part of the overall saga, they bring intriguing subconscious underpinnings and depth to certain aspects witnessed within THE FORCE AWAKENS, and don't let any naysayers tells you otherwise! (Especially linked to Kylo Ren's unique exploration of Darth Vader.). But, to his credit, Abrams, generally regarded as being a director in the best traditions of Steven Spielberg than the more elegant and documentarian Lucas, pays tribute to the STAR WARS creator's house style beyond just screen wipes and opening title crawls, and in a pleasing way that's much commended. Additionally, the story of THE FORCE AWAKENS does have moments that feel like STAR WARS Greatest Hits - especially with the Starkiller weapon- and in much the same way that JURASSIC WORLD often felt like a re-tooled for a new audience variation on the original JURASSIC PARK. But I expected such a move here, however, aware that such a nostalgic partial re-working was necessary in order to capture that box office-vital next generation of die-hard fans- the new LUCASFILM/DISNEY team having succeeded admirably and lucratively in my book. Let's hope Rian Johnson's VIII and Colin Trevorrow's IX get to explore and build even further, and even more satisfyingly, on the huge potential that these new characters and their arcs have showed with their richly enjoyable first outing.
AFICIONADO RATING: Tears of joy, with a sprinkling of sadness, in this bright and shiny Christmas present for STAR WARS fans. 4 out of 5
With thanks to DISNEY UK for their help and support.