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Star Wars The Force Awakens first review: 'Simply a masterpiece'

By Chris Wasser

Published 16/12/2015

This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows a scene from the new film,
This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP)
TOPSHOT - A party-goer wears a Star Wars movie "Captain Phasma" character's outfit during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Disney/Lucasfilm/AP)
This photo provided by Disney shows, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren with his Lightsaber in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Disney/Copyright Lucasfilm 2015 via AP)
This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows stormtroopers in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Lucasfilm via AP)
The cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens have a read through

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” We’d be lying if we said we didn’t squeal a little when that intro finally flashed before our eyes. This is it. This is the culmination of three years’ worth of secrets, rumours, trailers and the occasional production trip to Skellig Michael.

Indeed, ever since Star Wars creator George Lucas handed over the keys to his universe to Disney, the hype has been nothing short of extraordinary, with the Mickey Mouse Corporation deploying a meticulously-crafted marketing strategy for Episode VII (the first Star Wars movie in a decade), the likes of which we’ve never before experienced. The pressure was on.

The last trilogy (a series of prequels to the original saga) kinda sucked.

Read more: Star Wars The Force Awakens: Eight big questions fans can't wait to have answered

The plan going forward was to create something special; something confident and spectacular – an accessible and cleverly-constructed sequel, perhaps, with one eye on the past (when good-old Han Solo and his band of ramshackle warriors went up against that ghastly buckethead, Darth Vader) and another on the future (The Force Awakens is the first instalment of a new trilogy).

Read more: Cinemas swamped as Star Wars fever grips Northern Ireland

So, what’s the verdict? Well, Disney already knew it, director J.J. Abrams sure as hell knew it and now, finally, we know it, too. The lads delivered - The Force Awakens is, truly, a stunning exercise in large-scale filmmaking; a beautifully-assembled picture in which Abrams combines a magnificent cast with a marvellous flair for big-screen, sci-fi storytelling. Do we really need to say ‘spoiler alert’? We thought as much.

The gist is that, 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the world famous Luke Skywalker has gone AWOL. How come? Dunno, but someone had better find him, because the evil Galactic Empire has become the First Order, and there are way too many Storm Troopers for the Resistance (formerly the Rebel Alliance) to contend with.

Read more: Galaxy of stars land in London for Star Wars premiere

There’s a new big bad in town (a genuinely terrifying Adam Driver as Kylo Ren) and he’s also in a hurry to find the Skywalker fella. The message is clear – the galaxy will go boom if someone doesn’t stand up to Ren and his mysterious boss.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actress Gwendoline Christie attends the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)***BESTPIX***
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actress Gwendoline Christie attends the World Premiere of ?Star Wars: The Force Awakens? at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)***BESTPIX***
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters). Actress Sofia Vergara arrives at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters) Stormtrooers arrive at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters) Stormtrooers arrive at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters) Actor John Boyega arrives at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters). Actor Max von Sydow attends The Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters). Director George Lucas arrives at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters) Directors George Lucas and J.J. Abrams attend The Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Fans dressed in character wait in the stands at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (Editors Note: Image altered using digital filters) Directors George Lucas and J.J. Abrams attend The Premiere Of Walt Disney Pictures And Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Mellody Hobson, left, and George Lucas arrive at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Fans cheer in the stands at world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Gwendoline Christie arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Christie plays the role of Captain Phasma in the film. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Daisy Ridley arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Ridley plays the role of Rey in the film. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actors Carrie Fisher and Billie Lourd arrive at The Premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actors John Boyega (L) and Chadwick Boseman attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actors John Boyega (L) and Oscar Isaac attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Harrison Ford (L) and director J.J. Abrams attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Harrison Ford (L) and director J.J. Abrams attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actors Daisy Ridley (L) and Billie Lourd attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Producer Kathleen Kennedy (L) and actress Daisy Ridley attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Chairman and CEO, The Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger (L) and actor Harrison Ford attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actors David Oyelowo (L) and Lupita Nyong'o attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
French lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti poses next to a person wearing a Darth Vader (Dark Vador) costume during the "Darth Vader's trial" event at the Grand Rex movie theatre in Paris, on December 14, 2015, two days ahead of the premiere screening of the widely-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSONTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
French lawyers Eric Dupond-Moretti (C) and Antoine Vey (R) sit next to a person wearing a Darth Vader (Dark Vador) costume during the "Darth Vader's trial" event at the Grand Rex movie theatre in Paris, on December 14, 2015, two days ahead of the premiere screening of the widely-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSONTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
French lawyers Eric Dupond-Moretti (2ndL) and Antoine Vey (C) listen to fellow lawyer Patrice Spinosi (R) as they sit next to a person wearing a Darth Vader (Dark Vador) costume during the "Darth Vader's trial" event at the Grand Rex movie theatre in Paris, on December 14, 2015, two days ahead of the premiere screening of the widely-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSONTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
A person wearing a "stormtrooper" costume stands in the Grand Rex movie theatre during the "Darth Vader's trial" event in Paris, on December 14, 2015, two days ahead of the premiere screening of the widely-anticipated Star Wars: The Force Awakens. / AFP / THOMAS SAMSONTHOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
Sofia Vergara, left, and Joe Manganiello arrive at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows stormtroopers in a scene from the new film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." The movie releases in the U.S. on Dec. 18, 2015. (Film Frame/Lucasfilm via AP)
Director J.J. Abrams, left, and Katie McGrath arrive at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Carrie Fisher, left, and daughter Billie Lourd arrive at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Anthony Daniels arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Daniels plays the role of C-3PO. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Daisy Ridley arrives at the world premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Monday, Dec. 14, 2015, in Los Angeles. Ridley plays the role of Rey in the film. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
People watch a display screen showing the red carpet arrivals outside a large white tent lining Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere of the latest Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens' in Hollywood, California on December 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
People watch from behind police barricades and closure of streets on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California as preparations take place for the premiere of the latest Star Wars film, "The Force Awakens", which premieres in Hollywood tonight. PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Gerrard Christian Zacher, dressed in a Luke Skywalker X-Wing Pilot outfit, displays the helmet for a camera crew on hand to interview fans, among a group of over 100 people, who are free to come and go with their names on a list and tickets in their possession, for the December 17 opening of the new Star wars film "The Force Awakens" on December 8, 2015. Some have been camped out for three nights in front of the TCL Theater along Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Bystanders watch as a person dressed in a Chewbacca costume walks near where fans have been congregating at the plaza in front of the TCL Theater in Hollywood, California on December 10, 2015, where over 100 fans with tickets in their possession and some camped out for the past three or four nights, have been gathering in anticipation for the new film, 'The Force Awakens', which opens on December 17. Excitement over the latest "Star Wars" movie is building to fever pitch as fans literally count the days, hours and minutes before the latest installment of the space saga hits screens. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Caroline Ritter (C-green hair) and other Star Wars fans hold their place in line behind a barricade along Hollywood Boulevard as preparations are underway for the premiere later tonight of the latest Star Wars film, "The Force Awakens." Ritter and her partner Andrew Porters, who have been camped outside the TCL Theater since December 5, will get married in the queue on December 17 when the film opens to the public in theaters. Ritter and Porter travelled to Los Angeles from their home in Singleton, Hunter Valley in new South Wales, Australia. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
Road closures and security check points surround the large white tent lining Hollywood Boulevard amid continuing preparations for the tonight's Premiere of the latest Star Wars film, "The Force Awakens", on December 14, 2015 Hollywood, California. AFP PHOTO / FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
A couple poses for a selfie in front of a display screen outside a large white tent lining along Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere of the latest Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens' in Hollywood, California on December 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
A woman rushes past a store selling Star Wars merchandise along Hollywood Boulevard for the premiere of the latest Star Wars film, 'The Force Awakens' in Hollywood, California on December 14, 2015. AFP PHOTO/ FREDERIC J. BROWNFREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images
General view of the set up at the World Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", in Hollywood, California, on December 14, 2015.AFP PHOTO /VALERIE MACONVALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Harrison Ford attends the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been shot in black and white. Color version not available.) Actors Harrison Ford (L) and Mark Hamill attend the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the Dolby, El Capitan, and TCL Theatres on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Disney)
Actors Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart attend the World Premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", in Hollywood, California, on December 14, 2015.AFP PHOTO /VALERIE MACONVALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor Harrison Ford (L) and director J.J. Abrams attend the after party for the World Premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on Hollywood Blvd on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actress Daisy Ridley attends the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Dolby Theatre on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actor John Boyega attends the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Dolby Theatre on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Star Wars promotional posters are setup in Leicester Square ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actress Daisy Ridley attends the premiere of Walt Disney Pictures and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" at the Dolby Theatre on December 14, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: A fan wearing a Star Wars themed Christmas jumper arrives in Leicester Square to collect his fan pass ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Star Wars promotional posters are setup in Leicester Square ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Star Wars promotional posters are setup in Leicester Square ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: A fan wearing a Star Wars themed Christmas jumper arrives in Leicester Square to collect his fan pass ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Star Wars promotional posters are setup in Leicester Square ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: A fan wearing a Star Wars themed Christmas jumper arrives in Leicester Square to collect his fan pass ahead of the European film premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by . J. Abrams. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
A man wears a Star Wars character "Kylo Ren" outfit during a party in downtown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man wears a Star Wars character "Kylo Ren" outfit during a party in downtown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A man wears a Star Wars character "Leia Organa" outfit during a party in downtown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Party-goers wear Star Wars movie characters outfits during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A party-goer wears a Star Wars movie character's outfit during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Party-goers wear Star Wars movie character's outfits during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
A party-goer wears a Star Wars movie character's outfit during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
Party-goers wear Star Wars movie stormtroopers characters' outfits during a party in owntown Rome on December 15, 2015 on the eve of the premiere of the Disney movie. The latest installment of the Star Wars series opens in cinemas in France, Italy and other European countries at the start of a global rollout of the film, whose plot has been kept under wraps by producers Disney. / AFP / FILIPPO MONTEFORTEFILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP/Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 15: Following the world premiere in Hollywood of Lucasfilms "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", the film's stars were joined by J.J. Abrams and producer/Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy for a chartered flight from Los Angeles to the London premiere of the movie on a custom, one of a kind, specially themed R2-D2 ANA JET. Earlier at the premiere, stars posed for photos with a scale model of ANAs BB-8-themed ANA JET. ANA, Japans largest airline, has designed three Star Wars-themed jets in celebration of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The R2-D2 ANA JET is the first ever aircraft in the world to feature a Star Wars character on its exterior and is a product of an agreement between ANA and The Walt Disney Company (Japan) Ltd. First unveiled at the Star Wars Celebration in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this year, the R2-D2 ANA JET, a Boeing 787-9, started its regular flight in October and now flies to various destinations, including Europe, Asia, China and the U.S. December 15, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15: Preperations for the "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" European premiere in Leicester Square on December 15, 2015 in London, England. The film, starring members of the original cast including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, is the seventh film in the Star Wars franchise and is directed by J.J. Abrams. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/Getty Images)
A Stars Wars fan holds "light sabres" as he poses for a photograph as he waits for a screening of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", at the Kinepolis cinema in Liege, on December 16, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JOHN THYS / AFP / JOHN THYSJOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
A fan wears Star Wars slippers as he arrives at the Australian premier of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Sydney on December 16, 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to the general public on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKSPETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
A young fan dressed as a Star Wars character arrives at the Australian premier of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Sydney on December 16, 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to the general public on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKSPETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
A young fan dressed as a Star Wars character arrives at the Australian premier of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Sydney on December 16, 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to the general public on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKSPETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
A fan dressed as a Star Wars character arrives at the Australian premier of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Sydney on December 16, 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to the general public on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKSPETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images
A fan dressed as a Star Wars character arrives at the Australian premier of 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' in Sydney on December 16, 2015. Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens to the general public on December 17, 2015. AFP PHOTO / Peter PARKSPETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images

Luckily, one of Ren’s troopers grows a conscience, and before anyone has a chance to yell ‘traitor’, the kind-hearted Finn (John Boyega) crosses over to the good side, rescuing a captured pilot named Poe (Oscar Isaac) and literally crash-landing into the life of young Rey (Daisy Ridley), who’s about to swap her days of collecting scrap metal for an intergalactic war adventure aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Which is where Harrison Ford and his loyal companion, Chewbacca, come in. Save the galaxy, show the newbies how it’s done, re-discover the Force, dispense with a handful of snappy one-liners, learn how to use a lightsaber and find the missing Jedi. Simple.

Read more: Star Wars 'old guard' made it like a school reunion, says Carrie Fisher

If it looks as though Abrams has compiled something of a double A-side, it’s because he has. Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Leia) and, eventually, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) all comprise the roles that made them stars (our favourite bots, R2-D2 and C-3PO also pop up), but this is so much more than a big-budget stroll down memory lane.

The tone, in fact, is perfect and Abrams devotes just as much, if not more, screen time to the newcomers (Boyega and Ridley are brilliant). It’s a testament to the story and its wonderful use of humour, warmth and characterisation that The Force Awakens manages to succeed on practically every level.

The acting is superb; the chemistry, outstanding. True, Domhnall Gleeson hams it up slightly as a First Order General, but hey, what use is a cinematic baddie if he isn’t a little bonkers?

Read more: Critics hail Star Wars reboot a Force to be reckoned with

Meanwhile, Harrison Ford hasn’t brought this much enthusiasm and spark to a role in years. Are there twists and turns? Of course, but we won’t dare speak of the ties that bind this new gang together.

What we will say, however, is that the third act is a complete game-changer. The set-pieces and battle sequences are breath-taking. The decision to focus less on green screens and more on practical effects has paid off, too (I want that new orange droid for Christmas).

In short, believe the hype. An awesome and thoroughly spectacular experience, with a phenomenal score courtesy of John Williams, The Force Awakens is, quite simply, a masterpiece.

Oh, and Skellig Michael certainly looks epic on film...

Irish Independent

Irish Independent

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