The Force Awakens: Old legends retold

Let me start off by saying that I did not particularly like the new Star Trek movies. I had a soft spot for the neo-retro sort of look, but style can’t compensate for substance – or lack thereof. Which meant I was a little cautious about approaching the new Star Wars movie, not simply because of the same director, but because of the general way that Hollywood has been doing legacy movies.

I am so, so relieved that I had absolutely nothing to worry about.

The Force Awakens tales the series back to its roots: shamelessly paying tender tribute to an eclectic mix of high fantasy, pulp adventure, and mythic legend. Except that this time it’s copying from its own playbook, taking essence from the first and original Star Wars. It knows the archetypes it needs to work with, and it works with them well, changing them up where necessary.

If it wasn’t for a strong showing from Mad Max: Fury Road earlier in the year, I’d be confident in saying this was my favourite film of 2015. It’s a delightful blockbuster that knows when to be quiet, when to be loud, and when to make you laugh. The fresh faces of the cast – Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac – have a vibrant energy to their performances, and the returning stars of the original trilogy complement them nicely. I’ve never seen Harrison Ford so happy to be in a movie. He resumes the role of Han Solo like he’s putting on an old jacket, somewhat ironic since the character himself has finally graduated to wearing something with sleeves.

The scripting is wonderful, the cinematography is wonderful, and during a month in which I’ve been feeling a lot of emotional strain, it was a welcome burst of concentrated joy. It manages to tick every box for what you want out of a Star Wars movie, from X-Wings battling TIE Fighters, fancy manoeuvres in the Millennium Falcon, right down to a cantina scene.

If it’s still playing near you, go and see The Force Awakens. You won’t have a bad feeling about this one.