Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a 2015 sci-fi blockbuster. Directed by JJ Abrams (Lost, Super 8) and starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega (Attack the Block), Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis) as well as returning cast from the original movies. This is the first Star Wars film to be produced under the Disney banner and without the involvement of creator George Lucas.
The film takes place 30 years after the events of the original trilogy and the demise of the evil galactic empire. Unfortunately a new evil empire has risen to take it's place in the form of "The First Order". Similarly, another rebellious faction has risen to meet the threat, this time called "The Resistance". Luke Skywalker has since gone into a self imposed exile and Han Solo has gone back into the smuggling game. It falls to our heroes Rey (Ridley) and Fin (Boyega), with the help of Han and Chewie, to find Luke before the villainous tandem of Kylo Ren (Driver) and Supreme leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) do.
Stop me if you've heard this one before. A pair of young heroes use a droid (which holds concealed plans) to lead them to an ageing Jedi in order to stop an evil empire (fronted by a masked villain and his withered master) from using a planet sized weapon to takeover the galaxy. This is the plot of The Force Awakens and, more importantly, the plot of Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). There is a fine line between referencing the previous films in the franchise for nostalgia and overly relying on them and lifting plot points and characters wholesale. The Force Awakens steps over that line and repeatedly slaps you in the face shouting "do you remember those films you loved as a kid?"
When the producers gave George Lucas the credit of "characters based on" they really weren't kidding! Rey and Fin bear strong resemblance to the roles of Luke and Han, BB8 is obviously the new R2-D2 and the combo of Kylo Ren and Snoke is an incredibly unsubtle pastiche of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine. Every time I would start to enjoy the spectacular action sequences or strong performances of Driver and Ford (who has definitely still got it) I would be ripped from the my child-like state by an infuriating recreation of a scene from the original movie (for example, a strange looking band playing in a bar full of aliens).
I don't appreciate remakes or reboots that are deceptively marketed as sequels, and for those of us that had waited decades to find out what happens after Return of the Jedi (1983) the answer is: pretty much exactly what happened before Return of the Jedi. It's great to see Star Wars fever gripping the nation once again and my heart genuinely melts when I see a brand new generation of children falling in love with the franchise. However, for long term fans of the franchise (and potentially miserable grown ups) there is nothing new or interesting here to reinvigorate the series. It's not a bad film by any means but it could have been so much better, I'm crossing 2 cynical fingers for episode 8.
*** 3 Stars
What did you think of The Force Awakens? Did it borrow too heavily from previous films?