Old And New In Perfect Harmony
The film isn't simply cashing in the nostalgia tokens to get fans giddy though - the notion of legacy motivates the entire plot (and is the crux of several characters' arcs), making for something that works as an awakening in both a narrative and thematic sense ("Where's Luke" is more than just a hashtag). This may be Abrams' masterstroke, channelling all of that excitement carefully built up into the film itself. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa - these guys are legends bordering on myths, so when our newbies meet them, they're as excited as the audience.
Much of the movie is spent on those new characters - scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley is refreshingly unwooden), turncoat Stormtrooper Finn (who John Boyega play as both cocky and out-of-his-depth) and Resistance master pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, who is obviously awesome, if a little underused) - with Abrams keen to first develop the universe going forward before really piling on the callbacks and cameos. It is great when the original trio do respectively return, and Messrs Hamill, Ford and Fisher are all completely game, but what's so impressive is that you actually care about each of these new guys (something helped by all that banter).
The standout, though, is Kylo Ren. A Vader obsessive trying to emulate his idol, he is simultaneously a fearsome leader and petulant child; he's leading the biggest evil power in the galaxy, yet isn't above smashing up his Star Destroyer when things don't go his way. He's the best villain we've had introduced since Vader, with a complexity that exists outside of looking badass, and Adam Driver delivers his menace and emotion with grace. Pretty much every one of the movie's stand-out scene involve Ren.
Everything else you typically expect of Star Wars is execute with technical finnesse. The cinematography is indeed the creative step-up from what we got in the previous movies that the trailer's suggested, the special effects are (bar one shaky motion capture creature) excellent and the action is varied, tense and epic - the film boasts one of the series best lightsaber duels, bringing together the emotional powering of the originals and physical intensity of the prequels, with some added cutthroat danger in the mix. And, while there's no Duel Of The Fates equivalent, John Williams' score is rousing (and, like the movie itself, makes great use of callbacks).
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