Star Wars: The Force Awakens, review: ‘Fun but frivolous’

17:24 17 December 2015

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Picture: Lucasfilm 2015

Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Picture: Lucasfilm 2015

© 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Right Reserved.

J. J. Abrams’ reboot of the iconic series will sate the fans’ desires, but ultimately plays it safe, says Michael Joyce.

Struggles for control have always been the foundation of Star Wars, battles between the light and the dark side for a character’s soul. Now the fans have wrested control from its creator George Lucas and have made almost exactly the Star Wars movie they have been waiting for since The Empire Strikes Back, 35 years ago. The missing ingredient turned out to be fun, the element that was squeezed out of the films when Lucas turned to the dark side. Force Awakens is unrelentingly jolly; the hope is that everybody will have such a good time they won’t notice that it is basically a remake of the first two films.

The film opens on a desert planet, just like the original did, and has a seemingly ordinary young person Rey (Ridley) stumbling upon a droid that contains vital information, just like Luke did in the first film. Before the screening Disney were very insistent about people not giving away spoilers, but it is kind of redundant because in the Star Wars universe the options are so limited that no surprise ever really comes as a surprise: people will be tempted to cross to the dark side; people in tin helmets will be evil; ordinary people will quickly reveal themselves to be bold and heroic; and there will be a climatic lightsabre fight. The Force Awakens has one genuine surprise but because it is so bluntly set up (and because the whole film suddenly comes to a stop to look on as it happens) the shock of it is thrown away.

Our new heroes are unknown Brits Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, and I think audiences will warm to them and be happy to follow them through Episodes VIII and IX. Boyega has acquired a very nice mid Atlantic accent, though Ridley is so thoroughly English that you’d half expect the big surprise to be one of the film’s many Darth Vader substitutes lifting off their helmet to reveal Keira Knightley underneath, giggling, “Hey Rey, I’m your big sister!”

The Force Awakens is a great film for right now: it will sate the fans’ desire to see proper Star Wars again, engage a wider audience and it won’t leave a giant Phantom Menace pong in cinemas. But, if you are not a die hard fan, it isn’t really any great leap beyond the top level action movie blockbuster of the last few years and I wonder if, a few years from now, people will look back on it as a funny, busy but essentially frivolous film that doesn’t really get to grips with its dramatic potential. It’s a lot like a group of friends having great fun playing at being Star Wars, an epic exercise in playing it safe.

Rating: 3.5/5

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

Yesterday, 22:59
Two diners were injured in the accident involving an unmarked police car   pictures: Emily Banks

Diners at Pizza East restaurant in Highgate Road were injured when an unmarked police car on an emergency call was in collision with another car .

Yesterday, 18:52
Spurs Ladies forward Bianca Baptiste (right). Pic: Clive Jones

Spurs Ladies won a cup double last season and forward Bianca Baptiste would love to go one better and secure a treble this term – but she believes the focus should be on the league and a top-three finish.

Yesterday, 18:35
Lyon's Alexandre Lacazette

Lyon have refuted reports that they have received a second bid from Arsenal for star striker Alexandre Lacazette.

Yesterday, 18:33
Meet the Agent Alicia Carter of Knight Frank in Englands Lane

Alicia Carter is on the Knight Frank graduate scheme and is seeing the Belsize Park property market through fresh eyes

Yesterday, 17:00
Fig and Bloom

Coriander Stuttard learns about Fig & Bloom’s approach to healthy family eating with tasty recipes and nutritional advice

Yesterday, 15:14
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Mauricio Pochettino has shown his willingness to put his faith in Tottenham’s youngsters on plenty of occasions, and they will usually thank him for it.

Yesterday, 12:00
Adrian Lukis, Peter Egan and Nicholas Day in rehearsals. Picture: Johan Persson

Egan acts alongside Nicholas Day and Pride and Prejudice’s Adrian Lukis

Yesterday, 11:45
Matt Damon returns as Jason Bourne. Picture: Universal Pictures.

Matt Damon returns as a multi-faceted killer but remains without personality

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now