Star Wars: The Force Awakens - A Spoiler Free Review

We thrill to the sight of newcomers Finn, Rey, Poe, BB8 and assorted bad guys. The movie is a rollercoaster ride of dazzling special effects, action scenes and set pieces.And then, it stops.

It's around 12.30am, and the Imax 3D screening of JJ Abrams' long awaited Star Wars epic The Force Awakens is finally unveiled.

For around an hour the packed cinema is hushed, except for laughs in all the right places, as the drama unfolds.

We thrill to the sight of newcomers Finn, Rey, Poe, BB8 and assorted bad guys. The movie is a rollercoaster ride of dazzling special effects, action scenes and set pieces.

And then, it stops.

The screen goes blank, and the film crashes.

There's an unexpected cry from the gathered masses as the film we've waited 32 years for is abruptly halted. But there's a new hope when it re-starts - right in the middle of a major spoiler.

The screen goes blank and then reboots, as a couple of characters we haven't seen until that point appear. It's every Star Wars fan's worst nightmare.

Not quite the perfect viewing, Cineworld, Castleford, midnight, December 17, 2015

Thankfully the major revelation at the heart of Episode VII is not revealed during that impromptu intermission, and despite the fact i'm on one of those social media groups where spoilers are allowed, I still don't want to mention it. Like sucker punch moments in JJ Abrams' Star Trek films, some things are best discovered for yourself, in the cinema, hopefully in a film that runs from start to end.

Technical problems aside, the movie is little short of a masterpiece. Like a greatest hits album which takes your favourite songs, SWTFA features the best elements from the best Star Wars movies and bolts them together, glossing over the cracks with some snappy dialogue and stunning scenes.

The cast are terrific. John Boyega showed much promise with Attack the Block, and here he is spot on as Finn, the morally torn protagonist who crosses paths with Daisy Ridley's scavenger, Rey.

She is a revelation, looking like a young Keira Knightley (who appeared in Episode 1), she has to carry major scenes in the movie and manages it with ease. Smart, amiable and hugely appealing, she is guaranteed a big future.

(The awkward clunky dialogue and acting from the prequels is thankfully light years from this universe).

Oscar Isaac is superb as ace pilot Poe Dameron, and Adam Driver makes a great bad guy. Nice to see Max von Sydow in the movie as well, despite being little more than a glorified cameo.

Then there are the old school favourites. Harrison Ford gives his best performance in years as Han Solo, the ageing space pirate who slips back into the role with the ease of feet finding old bespoke shoes.

As he didn't have much to do in Return of the Jedi except get rescued and run around a bit, it's a relief to see him back in action.

And the return of Carrie Fisher as General Leia is a pleasure. There's no dialogue needed when she and Ford are on screen together. Many of us have grown up, and old with them. But when there is dialogue, it's heartfelt and touching.

As for Chewie? He continues to be one of the saga's strongest players without speaking a word. A moment in the third act ranks as my favourite of the year.

The rest of the bad guys are also terrific. Suitably enigmatic and menacing. I'll say no more for fear of straying into the dark side of spoiler territory.

As for the effects. Well they are crisper than ever, with Imax 3D showing off the props and gizmos in fine style. There's also a wonderful sense of scale here, exploiting depth and vertigo. You feel like you could slide down a sand dune, or climb the wall of a space station, the immersion is so successful.

John Williams' score is a treat, though it will take a few more listens to pick out favourite moments like The Asteroid Field or Duel of the Fates.

Disney may have gambled a fortune on the franchise, but based on what is arguably the best movie of the saga, yes, that includes The Empire Strikes Back, they don't have too much to worry about as it chases Avatar's record for the most lucrative movie ever made.

As a kid who was weaned on George Lucas's series from nine years old, it speaks volumes that I only saw the prequels once or twice at the cinema. This will be on hard rotation for the next few weeks as I savour every touching, poignant, thrilling moment again and again.

For a fan whose passion for the saga has been reawakened, Rian Johnson's Episode VIII cannot come soon enough.

After more than three decades of waiting, this is the Star Wars sequel we've been looking for.

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