Stars align for re­turn to form

Rutherglen Reformer - - The Ticket -

A decade af­ter the stodgy pre­quels left a bad taste in the mouths of fans and crit­ics alike, it’s time to travel back to a galaxy far, far away for the first in a brand new Star Wars tril­ogy.

As soon as John Wil­liams’s fa­mil­iar theme hit and the open­ing text crawl made its way up the screen, I was trans­ported back to my child­hood, and, while the toy lightsaber was miss­ing from my side this time around, I spent much of the next two hours-plus grin­ning like a giddy school­boy.

Af­ter res­ur­rect­ing the Star Trek se­ries to im­pres­sive ef­fect, JJ Abrams seemed a very wise choice to step be­hind the cam­era – and so it proves as the New Yorker re­stores the fans’ faith by tak­ing a Juras­sic World-style ap­proach.

Nostal­gia is the run­ning theme, from the de­ci­sion to re­cast old favourites Har­ri­son Ford (Han), Car­rie Fisher (Leia) and Mark Hamill (Luke) to the use of wipes for tran­si­tion shots and par­al­lel edit­ing jump­ing from mis­sion to mis­sion.

Abrams also co-wrote the script with Episode V and VI scribe Lawrence Kas­dan and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) and, while it’s clear they knew what worked and didn’t work in pre­vi­ous Star Wars en­tries, the story is sim­i­lar to fran­chise starter A New Hope. Too sim­i­lar.

Once again we have a young or­phan with a Force-themed des­tiny liv­ing on a desert planet, Daisy Ri­ley’s Rey, a key plot de­vice hid­den in­side a droid – the adorable BB-8 – and a masked men­ace out to de­stroy the galaxy us­ing a gi­ant su­per­weapon.

There’s com­fort in the fa­mil­iar­ity but it would’ve been nice to see the en­dear­ing fresh char­ac­ters given their own path to shine.

The mid-sec­tion also sags slightly with an em­pha­sis on chat, al­though we’re far from the pre­quels’ mind-numb­ing trade deal de­bates and midichlo­rian Jedi ex­po­si­tion.

For the first 45 min­utes it’s all about the new­bies and it’s they who dom­i­nate pro­ceed­ings through­out, not the old guard ... and, boy, are they up to the task.

Ri­ley and fel­low Brit John Boyega (Finn) are won­der­ful as the brave ad­ven­ture-seeker and stormtrooper-with-a-heart, re­spec­tively. Os­car Isaac’s dar­ing pi­lot Poe is an ex­er­cise in witty cool and Domh­nall Glee­son chan­nels his in­ner Peter Cush­ing as smarmy bad­die Gen­eral Hux.

Speak­ing of bad­dies, Adam Driver al­most steals the film as Darth Vader fan­boy Kylo Ren. Whether it’s tor­tur­ing our he­roes or ex­hibit­ing hy­per tem­per tantrums, this is a vil­lain wor­thy of com­par­i­son to his idol.

Ford is a blast as a griz­zly men­tor to the fresh blood and most of the old favourites make crowd­pleas­ing ap­pear­ances.

Shocks? There are more than a few but – don’t worry – you won’t find any spoil­ers here.

Go in know­ing as lit­tle as pos­si­ble and sit back and enjoy the laughs (it’s the fun­ni­est in the se­ries), awesome ac­tion and win­try lightsaber du­els in a rol­lick­ing ride that’s a great set-up for the next two in­stal­ments.

Thank you, JJ Abrams.

Head for cover Ri­ley and Boyega un­der at­tack

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