Decades after the events of 'Return of the Jedi', the heroes of the Rebellion have gone their separate ways - but evil rises once again in the form of the First Order, a terrifying new power with the ability to destroy entire star systems with Starkiller Base. A young Stormtrooper (John Boyega) defects to the Resistance with the help of a daring X-Wing pilot (Oscar Isaac) and, along the way, meets a young woman (Daisy Ridley) who hides incredible abilities.
Objectivity in reviewing films is a difficult thing because it's a fundamentally subjective medium. Just because you love a particular genre and are willing to overlook flaws or problematic aspects doesn't necessarily mean it's good or bad - it's just what you love. 'Star Wars' holds a special place in people's hearts. We know the characters, we know the worlds, we grew up with them. After the bitterly disappointing prequel trilogy, the original trilogy was elevated to an even more revered status. So how does 'The Force Awakens' compare? Well, it doesn't really because it's a remix - and that's a good thing.
The story picks up many years after the events of 'Return of the Jedi'. The galaxy is splintered into two factions - the Resistance and the First Order. The two sides have been waging a cold war that's dragged on and on however the balance in power is about to shift. Newcomer Daisy Ridley is Rey, a scavenger on the desert world Jakku where she was abandoned as a young child. Oscar Isaac plays Poe Dameron, a Resistance pilot who's in search of something that's of vital importance to both him and the galaxy itself. However, Dameron is quickly captured by Stormtroopers - one of whom is Finn, played by John Boyega.
We'll leave the plot synopsis there for the benefit of those who don't wish to have the experience spoiled. Needless to say, familiar characters come into play and there's gestures and nods to the original trilogy without it seeming hokey or relying on it for credence. The story ploughs ahead with a new twist but enough familiarity that makes it feel like the world is lived in.
Harrison Ford has always been more or less ambivalent about what is perhaps his greatest character. Here, that's all gone as he throws himself fully into the role and looks to be enjoying each and every sly grin. Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia has evolved to become a more grounded, quieter and authoritative figure instead of the doe-eyed but rough-around-the-edges portrayal in the past. There's a truly touching moment between the two and, all at once, we feel the bond between them without it having to be spelled out. The real weight of the film, however, rests on John Boyega and Daisy Ridley and they both perform superbly.
They're our guide into this world and, like them, they're discovering - or rediscovering, rather - with us. Initial skepticism about Adam Driver as the film's villain is now unfounded. He gives a truly chilling performance, but instead of being the out-and-out monster that we think Darth Vader is, there is something warped and wounded about him that reveals itself in the story.
Abrams' love for 'Star Wars' is evident throughout, but he's not afraid to push forward with his own vision. It doesn't make flippant references to the original trilogy simply to get a laugh out of people - well, maybe once or twice - but rather it acknowledges them and then charts its own course. The editing, the pacing and the cinematography all blend together to create a truly immersive experience.
The texture of the film feels like 'Star Wars'. It's worn-in, it's alive, it has presence and character that you just can't get from CGI. With these elements, the screenplay soars out and connects with us on that most basic emotional level. While it's dressed up as a tale of blasters, lightsabers and mystical powers, this is a film that has a human core to it that we can tap into, recognise and understand fully. There are no needless amounts of exposition drowning out the dialogue and the humour, which is plentiful, feels authentic and genuine. All of it works.
As good as we could have hoped for and then some. Go see it.