22nd December 2015
At last, the movie we've been waiting for all year. Both H and I managed to avoid pre-movie spoilers and so we saw it fresh. Verdict? Yes, good. I finally feel as though we've reclaimed Star Wars from the dreary prequels. Hard to review this without spoilers, though I guess most people who want to see it will have seen it by now (writing on 7th January), however I will avoid the major ones.
The new characters are pretty good, particularly Rey (Daisy Ridley), the main (female) hero who is strong. gutsy, clued up, and who takes what she's given and runs with it. Finn (john Boyega) is only half a pace behind as a reformed storm trooper who rejects his heritage and training and makes a run for it rather than slaughter innocents. I was a bit ambivalent about Kylo Ren when I saw this the first time round (yes, I've seen it twice already) but on second viewing it's obvious he's a flawed villan and his flaws are what make him dangerous.
The original heroes of Episodes 4, 5 and 6, Luke Leia and Han are all in there, suitably older but still perfectly cast. Leia is no longer a princess, but a general in the resistance and Carrie Fisher is going to bat for all older actresses. I think she pitches it perfectly. Harrison Ford's Han Solo still steals the show, I think, though he doesn't overwhelm it. Mark Hamil, Luke Skywalker is there, but largely being saved for Episode VIII, I think. This movie slices through decades of Star Wars novels and cuts adrift the Luke/Han/Leia (and their children) storylines post Return of the Jedi, which was inevitable, really.
It's now thirty years on from the defeat of the Galactic Empire in Return of the Jedi, and the good guys (the resistance) are now fighting the First Order, who seem to be the inheritors of the ld Empire, even if they don't quite see themselves in that light. Rae is a scavenger on a backward and back-woods desert planet who finds (or is found by) the little droid BB8 after Poe Dameron (hotshot pilot in the resistance) and Finn crash after escaping from the bad guys. There are hints that Rae has some kind of heritage that's hidden form her and you can read endless speculation about this online if you want to, but it's easier to take her at face value in this movie.
Essentially Episode VII, The Force Awakens, follows all the beats of Episode VI, A New Hope, but this isn't a box ticking exercise, it's a reclamation. Looking forward to Episode VIII and the standalone movie that we've been promised for December 2016.