Luke Skywalker has vanished, the Empire has crumbled, and from its ashes cometh the First Order. The Resistance is fighting back.
The previous trilogy with the centrality of the Skywalker hero and the shadow of the insidious Empire has come and gone.
Enter the new in Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens (2015), the next episode in the continuation of the Star Wars series, just over thirty years since Star Wars Episode VI Return of the Jedi.
However, there are remnants of the former trilogy that appear on screen. Luke Skywalker isn’t fully absent and Han Solo and Leia return. Chewbacca, C3-PO and R2-D2 are still here.
Even Darth Vader gets a vague reference although he died in the earlier film.
The freshness of the new film is referenced when the evil Imperial leader Snoke tells his right-hand man Kylo Ren he senses an awakening in the Force, the New Age-like mystical energy that surrounds and binds everything. Something is anticipated or brooding on the horizon which isn’t made fully clear, yet.
It makes one hanker for what’s going to happen more than the old although one can’t resist seeing the old come and do their stuff.
The new characters hit the spot. Daisy Ridley plays a tough scavenger whose instincts are to survive and gets involved in the fight against the First Order; John Boyega as a defective Imperial trooper has over-the-top charm; Oscar Issac plays a Resistance fighter obviously on the side of integrity. A new droid has spunk.
Having a villain as menacing as Darth Vader would be a feat, but Kylo Ren just about comes close. Adam Driver is mostly masked throughout the film, but as Ren his voice conveys fear that will send shivers through your spine and with the first sequence of mindless violence the First Order is palpably scary.
The bare bones of the story is finding Luke Skywalker who has vanished. The First Order want this “last Jedi” eliminated, but the Resistance need him back on their team.
It’s a fresh Star Wars film, with a few new story revelations, but like other Star Wars films that have a clear good versus evil thread. In this one, the meat in-between is engrossing and the production values top notch.
Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens (2015) ****½ Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher. Director: J.J. Abrams.