Some of my earliest cinema-going memories are of the re-releases of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Funnily enough I can’t actually remember seeing A New Hope until it’s VHS release. I collected the action figures, the posters, even the Darth Vader drink cups, which all still remain up in the storage attic. Lightsaber duels with my brother, and pretending my bicycle was an X-Wing, it’s fair to say that Star Wars was an important part of my childhood. But I also share the customary disappointment towards the prequel trilogy. As a result, the notion of another series of squandered potential in the hands of creator George Lucas was understandably disheartening. Yet the news of J. J. Abrams sitting in the director’s chair after the successful reboot of Star Trek put some of those fears to rest.
The Force Awakens doesn’t stray too far from the tried and tested elements of its predecessors, yet manages to construct new foundations and offer enough intrigue to establish itself as the beginning of a new trilogy. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s entrance into the Star Wars Universe offers a new lease of life and perspective. A determined scavenger with a mysterious past, and a reformed Storm Trooper allows for a compelling set of characters with an engaging chemistry. Meanwhile Adam Driver’s menacing Kylo Ren, Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux and Andy Serkis’ Supreme Leader Snoke leave a strong impression that gives glimpses into the true state of the “Dark Side”, even if it’s first oughting ends in a predictable loss. The return of the franchise’s classic characters; Han Solo, Leia Organa and Chewbacca carefully and respectfully pass the torch to the charismatic youth that hope to ascend to similar stature.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a welcome and satisfying end to a rather disappointing year in cinema over here in Japan. From the iconic text crawl accompanied by John Williams’ score, to the sounds of Tie Fighter blaster cannons, J. J. Abrams has recreated some of the magic and spirit that has made the Star Wars Universe so endearing and iconic. And while questions still remain to be answered, I can’t argue that the film left me with a smile.