I have my cousin and uncle to thank for my personal relationship with Star Wars. Every August, my brothers and I would incorporate my cousin’s latest movie obsession into a family movie, usually all shot on location in my grandparent’s garden. Our debut was Godzilla in 1998 and this was followed a year later by James Bond Meets Star Wars – a risky but revolutionary mash-up as far as we were all concerned. My dad would enthusiastically take to the director’s chair and other family members would begrudgingly be our extras. I was only seven years old when Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace came out in UK cinemas and I probably didn’t see it until later that year on VHS. I watched all three originals with my family and have a particularly fond memory of the campy, clunkiness of the first instalment. My uncle introduced me to the original world and my cousin fuelled my naive childhood love of the prequels. My relationship with the franchise has always been limited mainly because I’ve never been able to share in the memories others have of the spiritual experience they had when seeing them on the big screen; even people my age who foolishly delighted in Jar Jar Binks and the pod-racing. Star Wars:The Force Awakens finally gave me that opportunity and, despite problematic elements that I’m struggling to overlook, in its greatest moments it transported me back to our home-made movie sets of the 90s and early 00s. J.J. Abrams has succeeded in igniting a spark that’s been out for three decades. It’s a fan pleaser but also a perfect introduction for a new generation. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has euphoric moments that run deep with emotion. J.J. Abrams handles past characters with great care and respect, letting them support a delightful and charismatic new cast.
Daisy Ridley takes centre stage as young scavenger Rey, a talented pilot and tough loner. What’s so wonderful about Ridley is that both her character and performance are equally brilliant. Rey combines all the greatest qualities of Luke, Han and Leia. She is determined, gifted and full of attitude; an ideal lead who carries the film. John Boyega is ludicrously charming. He brings wit and heart and has great chemistry with all he interacts with. His is a performance that is made more impressive if you have seen him in Attack the Block and recognise the stark contrast between both. Both practically unknowns, Boyega and Ridley are a powerful and perfect duo who complement the past and embrace the future of the franchise. Harrison Ford was thankfully more Han than old man and Fisher also slots in nicely. Skywalker is the highlight – incorporated and introduced perfectly, in a cinematic sequence I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Smaller delights come in the form of Oscar Isaacs and Domhnall Gleeson – Isaacs bringing the cool and Gleeson bringing over the top villainy. Adam Driver is Kylo Ren, the villain with a complex past and a history of radicalisation. Driver is an actor I love and admire but not one who naturally slots into this universe or role – one of the film’s most troubling aspects. The film’s striking locations and use of practical effects contributes greatly to capturing the original essence of what made Star Wars great. However, two characters are CGI-ed; standing out like two perfectly and digitally animated sore thumbs. One in particular has the greying and transparent qualities that would be much more at home in Prometheus. Far from perfect, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has its faults but there is enough magic and mastery to pull it through. A great movie with a strong beating heart, Star Wars: The Force Awakens took me back to my memories of being eight years old, running around with a blue pillowcase over my head, pretending to be R2-D2.
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