“Chewie, we’re home” says Harrison Ford’s Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The character is ostensibly talking about the Millennium Falcon, but the truth is he’s talking about the entire Star Wars franchise, about the original cast, the original ethos and, honestly, he’s speaking for the millions of fans who have been waiting impatiently for 30 years for the next true step into a Galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a terrific film – it is reverent but not deferential to the original trilogy, genuinely funny without feeling the need to be puerile and it oozes the gritty Star Wars universe we know and love from every pore.
In fact, it’s pretty much everything Star Wars fans wanted and more – and that goes a long way to painting over some clear but not destructively large cracks.
From a very early stage in the production of TFA the force felt strong with this one. The decision to lure JJ Abrams away from the dark side to direct gave the film an immediate filip – this was the man after all that had managed to create one of the most hyped TV series of our time and rebooted the Star Trek world for the cinema screen in impressive style.
But, sadly, the biggest positive was probably the news that creator George Lucas was not going to be involved. His sale of Lucasfilm to Disney finally freed the franchise from the shackles of a genius who was too close to the project.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey is outstanding – flying in the face of criticism about the lack of strong female characters – and she’s ably supported by John Boyega as Finn and Poe Dameron played by a pitch-perfect Oscar Isaac.
But, the film’s best performers are Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the broadsword-like lightsaber wielder from the trailers, Peter Mayhew’s wonderfully curmudgeonly Chewbacca and Harrison Ford who plays a character he last played in the early-80s with such charisma and gusto it serves as the bridge between the old era and this burgeoning new one.
It’s not perfect, but in truth it never could be given the wait of expectation tempered, but not evaporated, by the passing of time and the woeful prequels.
There will be moments that even the most hard-core of fans will consider a bit shonky, but the fact that the discussion will be about whether this is the finest Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi or Empire Strikes Back is the biggest praise I can offer.
In all honesty it may require multiple viewings and a step back from the sheer relief that this is a proper darn Star Wars film to make that judgement.
I’ve rarely smiled as long or as widely throughout a film. I’ve rarely felt so satisfied by something that I’d been getting this over-excited about. I’ve seldom wanted to whoop aloud in a room full of adults, but that’s the joy of this movie.
Chewie, we’re home.