REVIEW - Star Wars: The Force Awakens
STAR Wars is back and it's a good mix of everything we loved about the old films and everything the franchise needed to charm CGI-hardened audiences.
Lucky fans, select media and local celebrities were out in force at the Australian premiere in Sydney tonight.
It seems director JJ Abrams has the magic touch, after also successfully rebooting Star Trek for a new generation.
Abrams' addition to the Star Wars franchise is an action-packed affair from start to finish.
I doubt anyone could get bored watching this film, even with its 135-minute running time.
BB8 is sure to sell a lot of merchandise once cinema-goers fall in love with the rotund robot.
The adorable droid is more than just a sidekick for ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), often finding itself rolling around in the thick of the action.
Newcomers Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren) give good performances.
That lightsaber fight scene in the snowy forest teased in the trailers is a highlight with Abrams forgoing CGI animated action for more realistic choreography.
Harrison Ford's world weary Han Solo and Chewbacca are the dynamic duo we all remember and their easy chemistry is still a delight, as is the return of Carrie Fisher (now General Leia) without those two buns.
Being a Game of Thrones fan I was hoping for a more substantial role for Gwendoline Christie, and I still have no idea what creature Simon Pegg was apparently playing/voicing.
I also thought there could have been a bit more explanation about the physically imposing Supreme Leader Snoke, performed via motion-capture animation by Andy Serkis, and Rey's backstory.
But those are two relatively minor gripes with the film.
The Force Awakens echoes many of the themes of George Lucas's original films that made stars out of Ford and Fisher.
The battle between the light and dark sides of the force continues, there are some seriously messed up family issues and unexpected heroes rise up in the face of adversity.
Everyone knows Mark Hamill will appear in some form as Luke Skywalker, with his absence from the trailers only intensifying the mystery around his character's whereabouts.
How and when he features, well, I wouldn't dare spoil that; you'll have to see the movie to find out.
The Force Awakens leaves plenty of questions unanswered and will most assuredly be the first in a series.
While it certainly helps to have some familiarity with the previous films, the seventh installment stands on its own as one entertaining night at the movies.