Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Wake up! Star Wars looks like fun again

THE Phantom Menace may have been one of the biggest grossing films of the Nineties — eventually taking

THE Phantom Menace may have been one of the biggest grossing films of the Nineties — eventually taking over a billion at the box office — but for many fans of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy the verdict of “Jar Jar stinks” is what lingers all too putrescently in the memory.

But now there is hope. A New Hope, even. Three years ago, Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney, which promptly ditched his every suggested storyline and enlisted sci-fi wunderkind JJ Abrams to helm Episode VII — The Force Awakens.

To quote the film itself: “There has been an awakening, have you felt it?”

The awakening, in this case, of one of the world’s biggest and most fiercely loved film franchises returning to cinemas for the first time in a decade.

With the passing of the torch — or should that be lightsaber? — Abrams’s mission statement is simple: to win over audiences old and new, rekindling the magic of the Star Wars universe while introducing it to a new generation of fans.

Although much of the new film’s plot remains a closely guarded secret, it promises to return audiences to a galaxy far, far away — with events unfolding roughly 30 years after the conclusion of Lucas’s original trilogy. New lead characters Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are set to take on villains including the fearsome Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and the brooding General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) — members of the First Order, a group that has risen from the ashes of the Empire following its defeat at the end of Return of the Jedi.

“What would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?” asks Abrams in Empire magazine. “Could the First Order exist as a group that actually admired the Empire? Could Vader be a martyr? And could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”

If anyone’s martyring Darth Vader it will be fellow First Order malefactor Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who looks set to become an immediately iconic villain. Boyega and Ridley look set to become household names in their own right too, sharing the screen with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Notably, Abrams has also re-enlisted five-time Academy Award-winning composer John Williams to provide a suitably out-of-this-world orchestra score, and has vowed to balance necessary CGI (bye bye, Jar Jar) with beautifully crafted real props such as a new spherical droid, BB-8.

It’s perhaps the director’s unwavering reverence for the films that started an almost three-decade-long cinematic journey — fused with his proven track record with sci-fi epics — that will ultimately make The Force Awakens a worthy addition to the Star Wars saga.

The Force Awakens is now showing at the Henley Regal Picturehouse.

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