Old is new again in this galactic sequel
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (PG)
Science-fiction/136 minutes/Now showing
Some three decades after the events of the Return Of The Jedi (1983), which saw the fall of the Galactic Empire, fragments of the cruel old autocracy survive in militaristic The First Order movement. The Order's Stormtroopers crush all in their path, but the Jedi are almost extinct and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) has not been seen in years.
CHRISTMAS is here and Santa's coming in a rusty space freighter that did the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs, its belly filled with nostalgia, its cargo bay packed to the roof with shout-outs to the 1970s.
Excuse the overwrought analogies, but the new Star Wars movie calls for them.
Everything that people liked about the first movie is here - the paciness, the David-versus-Goliath battles, a universe teeming with squawking and screeching selection of alien ne'er-do-wells, cut-throats and people-eating, tentacled beasts.
Catchphrases, such as the one about the Kessel Run, leak like hydraulic fluid from the battered Millennium Falcon. Robots and weapons from the original trilogy crowd the background.
Pandering? Absolutely. But director J.J. Abrams makes sure that the movie earns the right to use iconic symbols.
He and the team ditch the self-important bloatedness of the prequels (episodes 1 to 3). We are back to where it all began, to a time when Star Wars was a blend of pirate movie, war drama and adventure serial, all seen through the eyes of young humans stuck on a backwater planet until destiny arrives to give them a kick in the rear.
Dialogue is sparse. Characters say just enough, though much is left unsaid. Finn the trooper (John Boyega) deserts the ranks of the First Order, triggered by a feeling never fully explained, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a junk scavenger of unclear origins who just happens to be an ace pilot.
Old favourites such as Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) return as mentors. Without giving too much away, the parts of young swashbuckler, earnest naif and villain that used to be played by actors now past 60 now fall on new shoulders. This retreading of archetypes is the weakest point of the story - more than 30 years after the first movie, you would think there might be a new way to tell a tale.
Rey and Finn now share the roles of the seeker coming of age. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is Vader in all but name, albeit one with more inner conflict.
This episode brings warmth back to a franchise more frozen than a dead Tauntaun. Let's hope the second and third movies continue the thaw.