If you queued round the block, as I did, in 1977, to see the birth of Star Wars, you will definitely be happy to see many of your on-screen icons return, in this seventh incarnation. Those include the beloved, now beat-up spaceship Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. The return of the robots got a cheer when I was in the cinema, even though the new bot BB-8 is very cute.
And the major mystery that is posed by The Force Awakens, is not the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, but how Harrison Ford looks exactly the same as he always did. He, as Hans Solo, is spot-on, adding a lot of levity to the sci-fi classic and sending himself up at the same time, as the old order gives way to the newbies. On meeting Carrie Fisher again, his line is “You’ve changed your hair.” And that truly reflects the method-acting that has transformed Princess Leia to General Leia, working for the Resistance for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But this movie is actually the Daisy and John vehicle. Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as former Stormtrooper Finn are mesmerising. Ridley in particular is fresh-faced, feisty, determined and a better pilot than Hans Solo, as he grudgingly concedes. Daisy blooms from being an orphan scavenger from the desert planet Jakku, with an elusive backstory, yet to be fully revealed, to someone who could save the universe. It’s a rapid route to stardom for the British actor who has sped supersonically from parts in TV hospital drama Casualty to Hollywood star.
And Boyega, the young Londoner now catapulted to international attention, is an able co-conspirator for Ridley. Unfortunately truly talented Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson does not shine on this occasion, playing an overly mannered baddie General Hux, with fascist trappings. But his Stormtrooper rally brings back echoes of world wars and Hux may have a future life. The First Order are the new evil to be overcome.
Forget the Star Wars prequels, this is a proper swashbuckling blockbuster, set on snowy landscapes and desert expanses, with lots of chuckles of recognition for true fans of the franchise. Beware that there is violence, particularly torture, however, that to me belied the 12a certificate. There will be a great boost to Irish tourism, however, by the use of Skellig Michael monastic island, off Co Kerry, already a place of pilgrimage. It looks astonishingly beautiful, with no need for digital enhancement. Director JJ Abrams, a frequent visitor to Ireland, has chosen well on his locations.
by Liz Kennedy
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is certificate 12a and lasts 2 hours 16 minutes