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

10:00
The Hall school  triathlon team

A team of 40 mothers and staff from The Hall School, in Hampstead, are running the Blenheim Triathlon on June 4 to raise money for a Swiss Cottage youth project.

09:16
The man was stabbed in Camden High Street near Greenland Street

A murder investigation has been launched after a man in his 30s died after being stabbed on Camden High Street in the early hours this morning.

Chris Roche wants Muswell Hill Library to stay put. Photo: Polly Hancock

A renowned architect fears the historic library will be moved to the site of the former Green Man pub, rather than adapted for greater disability access

09:00
Dark wood furniture makes a statement in a room decorated in neutral shades, and John Lewis’ free-standing Bali range is brilliant value and good-looking: Tallboy, £195, and Mirrored Double Wall Cabinet, £95. Its roomy Two Tone Laundry Basket, £69, could be perfect for towels or laundry. PA Photo/Handout

Are you living the bathroom dream? The ultimate space for a wash-and-brush-up should also double up as a spoiling home-spa for relaxing – and your room is sadly lacking if it’s not offering both.

Yesterday, 09:00
Alan Titchmarsh, who is spearheading the Butterfly Conservation's Plant Pots for Pollinators campaign. PA Photo/Butterfly Conservation

In his Hampshire garden, green-fingered guru Alan Titchmarsh has swathes of butterfly and bee-friendly plants – from buddleia and verbena to catmint, cosmos and coneflower.

Fri, 20:11
Middlesex's Dawid Malan

Dawid Malan celebrated his first game as Middlesex’s T20 skipper with a classy knock of 93 as his side hammered Hampshire by 69 runs.

Fri, 17:00
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe in THE NICE GUYS. Picture: Daniel McFadden

Shane Black has had his ups and downs in Hollywood – going from a million dollar screenwriter (Lethal Weapon) in the ‘80s to being largely ignored in the ‘90s.

Fri, 12:58
Nurul Islam celebrates at his Belsize Park kiosk with customers and Ham&High reporter Emily Banks, right.       Picture: Polly Hancock

The vendor who runs the Belsize Park newspaper kiosk today thanked his customers for pressuring Camden Council into doing a u-turn over the rent hike which threatened his business.

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe