Star Wars blasted back to our screens, embracing its history and leaving us looking to the future. J. J. did it - this time.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens could be praised until the ends of the galaxy – and I’m willing to do it. The return of George Lucas’ space opera to the big screen, now in the hands of J. J. Abrams, succeeded in thoroughly trouncing expectations, quelling fears and softening all but the most cynical of hearts. It was a love song to the classics of the series, full of homage and self-referential moments which this reviewer, at least, took in good faith as tributes and did not lambast on social media like that wet-blanket acquaintance everyone seems to know.
Yes, at times it leaned on an audience’s prior knowledge or our suspension of plausibility. No, I’m not entirely sure why the Millennium Falcon just happened to end up in fine working order in that junkyard of all the outposts of all the planets in the galaxy. Sure, there were unanswered questions that might not have worked for everyone. Yeah, Rey definitely seemed to pick that Jedi thing up rather quickly. But if Luke succeeded 40 years ago when the sum total of this farm boy’s ‘training’ involved some fancy yoga and Rey has lived on her own for over ten years, scavenging and specialising in a melee weapon, and you don’t want to give her the benefit of the doubt? Sorry, critics come off sounding like buzzkills.
It’s a film with magic and glowing swords, for Pete’s sake.
Star Wars has never been sci-fi. It’s a fantasy. It’s not Trek, with its philosophical tendencies and poignant poetic moments on the meaning of life, present at least when Abrams isn’t at the helm. (Does he deserve points for ruining only one of the two greatest space-themed franchises, or does it cancel out?) There’s a reason the film opens with a slow pan to a take on the phrase ‘once upon a time’. It’s a space fairytale. And in fairytales, you don’t have to question when the hero finds the magic sword or the knights ride in and vanquish the dragon against insurmountable odds. Star Wars has long been a gatepost of the guarded kingdom of ‘nerd superiority’, and Force Awakens knocked it down with a battering ram. With fresh faces in actors as talented and endearing as the established cast they’ve joined, it has succeeded in opening the franchise to new fans, and giving old ones a reminder of the heart and soul which made it loveable in the first place.
Flawlessly shot and scored, with impressive effects that contrast recent clumsy CGI blockbusters, The Force Awakens deserved every praise it received on cinema release. Those who didn’t enjoy it are entitled to their opinion, but should be aware that it does rather make them sound like they don’t know how to have fun, and are probably people who fold their socks. For everyone else, the Blu-ray should provide even more. Extras include an hour plus making-of documentary; the first auditions of ‘Peanuts’ John Boyega and Daisy Ridley; and the first script table-read, where we see the original trio work alongside the new ones for the first time, and where Mark Hamill ended up having no lines so read the stage directions aloud, instead.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), directed by J.J. Abrams, is released in the UK on DVD and Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox. Certificate 12.