For those of us who saw the original Star Wars in the cinema, way before it was ever called "A New Hope", there has been a certain trepidation on hearing the announcement of a new Star Wars film. You all know what I am talking about and, tonight, I went to see for myself. And do not be afraid. This isn't another "Phantom Menace!"
In one of the trailers there is a distant shot of a tiny vehicle moving across a wilderness. As the camera pans across to follow the movement we realise that the things which appear to be hills or sand-dunes are actually wrecked ships, discarded behemoths left behind by the glories of a bygone age. This is, in some ways, a metaphor for the whole film. The legends of the past hang heavy in the air throughout. However, even if it is fuelled by nostalgia, there are fresh new characters scavenging in the ruins of what has gone before. And these characters prevent it from being dragged down by its own history.
One of the problematic things about the original three which seemed far worse in the prequel trilogy was the latent racism, sexism and nationalism. That trace of discomfort I feel at watching the first three, which became problematic when presented with Watto, Jar-Jar and the Trade Federation? Gone! That was not something I noticed at the time. It was only afterwards that I realised that I had made it to the end without flinching at all.
A lot of that comes down to the characters. One of the complaints made about the prequel was that it was driven by character rather than action. It had relationships. So does this. However, unlike the prequel trilogy, the characters we see are human and relatable. Sometimes they are strong and courageous and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they grow and change and sometimes they don't. This makes the whole story much more immersive. I guess we expect solid performances from strong, experienced actors like Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford, and they do not disappoint. But newcomers like Daisy Ridley and John Boyega provide the bulk of the storytelling action with well-played, relatable characters.
If I have one criticism in all this it is that it never quite excels. It is an absolutely solid Star Wars film, with everything where you would expect it to be, with action and drama to keep things moving when we are tempted to get caught up in remembering. But for me at least there was no crowning moment of awesome. But don't let that put you off. If you are a Star Wars fan (and these days, who isn't?) then you will find this plenty enjoyable. And, even if you are not, it is still a good way to spend a couple of hours.
Most of the critics I have read have said four stars out of five and I would agree with them. Go see it. You might not be blown off your seat but you won't be disappointed either.