A spoiler-free Star Wars review

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now. And I’m quite sure I’ll see it a few more times before 2016 is out. Not because I’m a slavish Star Wars fanboy (which I am!) but because it’s just so good.

Seriously.

I wanted to write a review of the film without including any spoilers (unless you think that effusive praise itself represents a spoiler?) to illustrate what the film has going for it, major plot points aside, for those of you yet to see it. I successfully avoided any spoilers except for what was included in official trailers. Despite basically living on the internet and waiting a full 48 hours after it hit my local cinema.

Why the anticipation?

Let’s put this into context. I don’t think I’ve anticipated a film as much in literally years. Not since they made the ill-fated Star Wars prequels. I looked forward to this more than any X-Men, Spider-Man or Avengers flick. More than any sci-fi or horror movie, no matter how important.

Star Wars was a huge part of my childhood, from seeing the films in the cinema, to collecting the figurines and comics. Pretty much like most boys my age, I spent about 75% of my mental life living in the Star Wars universe. I dreamed Star Wars. I breathed it. I could name every character and knew pretty much every piece of dialogue off by heart.

Being a geek, this percentage lowered with age, but not significantly. Hearing that there was going to be another film filed me with dread and excitement. Dread at the prospect of another grim rehash like the prequels, but excitement that they might learn from their mistakes and return the Star Wars franchise to its former glory.

So what’s so good about ‘The Force Awakens’?

Oh. Where to start…?

From the moment the titles scrolled up the screen, I was transported back to my childhood. In a good way. It was a heart-thumping moment of nostalgia…if nostalgia can cause you blood pressure to rise and your palms to sweat.

As Han murmurs in the trailer, it was like “coming home”.

The overall look and feel of the film is a return to Star Wars’ glory days. A lot less nasty CGI and a lot more real sets and actors. The prequels at times looked more like a cheap video game than a movie. You could see the sets and the impact they hd on actors’ performances. It all made something very fantastic seem a lot more real. Yes, even the aliens and the space battles.

It was chest-thumpingly brilliant to see the return of characters from the original trilogy. And yes, the moment that Han and Chewie appear on film (it’s shown in the trailers, so no spoilers) is even more exciting when you’re sitting in front of an enormous cinema screen. A scene I could watch over and over again.

That said, the new characters are excellent. Unlike the appearance of Anakin and Padme in the prequels, I actually cared what happened to these people. I could empathise with them. I wanted to see them succeed. They’re complex, but also likeable. (I wanted to see Anakin sliced in two by a light-sabre several times. And Padme’s stupidity drove me insane!)

In terms of pace, there’s more than enough action for even the most die hard action move fan. At times, it’s a little exhausting, but there are great non-action scenes that really serve to move the story forward. I don’t think there was a moment of story that didn’t add value. Nothing I’d cut to make it shorter.

The dialogue is a lot less clunky than any previous Star Wars film, and its used to bring viewers along, not provide masses of exposition or explanation of why things are the way they are.

And next?

Apart from watching it again in the cinema? And buying it the moment it’s available on iTunes so I can watch it at home?

I’m genuinely looking forward to the next in the series of Star Wars films. The various loose threads are genuinely interesting and because it’s not a prequel, nobody (except the writers) really knows whats going to happen next.

There is huge room for character development in interesting directions, filling in the holes in the backstories and origins and giving us more than a glimpse into the state of the Star Wars galaxy after the fall of the Empire.

So yes, this gets a complete 10/10 from me. And that wasn’t a given. But having seen TFA twice now, I’m once again optimistic Star Wars has returned to form and with time, we can all put the prequels – firmly – behind us.

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