Rest assured, this is a spoiler-free review. This is intended for the fans that simply need to know whether it’s any good, not to reveal any details of what exactly happens.
That being said, allow me to manage your expectations with one definitive answer: Yes, upon first viewing The Force Awakens is better than all of the prequels.
J.J. Abrams has done the franchise justice and fans can sleep easy. His attention to detail in terms of the various planets, costumes, robots, weapons, vehicles and most importantly the humour is incredible.
Watching this gives you that fuzzy sense of nostalgia, from the moment John Williams’ iconic theme starts and the opening crawl appears. But Abrams also breathes new life into it – bringing new characters of actual substance and some impressive camera work.
Being a Disney film, they’ve crafted this series into the perfect family blockbuster. The Force Awakens incorporates all the best parts of popular franchises before it, taking the charm of Pirates of the Caribbean, the spooky undertones of Harry Potter, and even the arse-kicking female lead, à la The Hunger Games – resulting in a film that literally everyone can enjoy.
Daisy Ridley is about to become the most Googled celebrity in the world, as the clear standout of this film. She’s like a less annoying version of Keira Knightly, with just the right amount of tough and cute. The connection with Abrams is that she’s very much like Evangeline Lilly’s Kate from Lost.
She’s backed by two strong male leads, in John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as the ace pilot, Poe Dameron. Boyega struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes but he absolutely nails his comedic timing. Isaac is unfortunately underutilised but he’ll no doubt have a much bigger role later on. He clearly comes across as the updated Han Solo-type hero – cool, calm and slightly arrogant.
Similarly, Adam Driver is a solid addition. Like Isaac, Driver has already impressed us on multiple occasions so it’s really no surprise he’s powerful here.
It’s the scenes featuring these four new leads that are the most compelling and fun – particularly when they’re interacting with their returning and much wearier-looking co-stars. Harrison Ford still has his charm, and although he’s looking a little more tired these days, it’s impossible not to clap uncontrollably when Han and Chewy finally make their entrance.
Unfortunately some of the other semi-big names announced in the new cast, such as Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o and even Andy Serkis, are fairly underwhelming. The most criminally underused were the cast from Gareth Evans’ The Raid, who could have created one hell of a fight scene.
In terms of the plot it’s basically everything you’d expect, but in a good way. Abrams hasn’t strayed too far from the formula of A New Hope, but it’s still not entirely predictable or over-complicated either.
All in all, even after all the buzz surrounding this film, fans will most likely be pleased. And in true Abrams style, just enough questions remain unanswered to keep us wanting more. It’ll be two whole years until we get Rian Johnson’s Episode VIII (with spin-off Rogue One due next Christmas), so there’s plenty of time for plenty more re-watching, over-analysing and theorising. Enjoy.