SEVEN of us in a row, three generations for one film. I am sitting between my Stars Wars fanboy son and my father-in-law. Fanboy son number two is at the other end of the row, with his sister, newer to the films perhaps, but now a fangirl in her own right, and my wife, who did the important job of securing the tickets.
Not sure I qualify as a fanboy, but I did enjoy the films first time round. That’s where Star Wars: The Force Awakens scores heavily. Director JJ Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan bypass the prequels and rediscover the wit, adventure and romance of the originals.
As the film rolls on, simple in its storytelling but good simple, as the story sweeps along, my 27-year-old primary teacher son laughs at every joke and sighs at every reference to the other films, clearly spotting links and parallels that have gone over my head.
He is no longer the teacher who wrote “Star Wars Release Day” on his blackboard that morning; he is that small boy again, lost in the wonder of a boundless galaxy that sucked him in more than 20 years ago.
His brother is just the same, but he is sitting further away so I can’t sense his excitement. When fanboy number two was five, I took them both to see the rereleased the Empire Strikes Back and he fell asleep. No danger of that tonight, and he says afterwards that the film was even better than he’d hoped.
And it is a good film – a proper old-fashion movie, stirring and witty, yet slotted into a sensible narrative groove; full of dizzyingly smart effects, but not in thrall to the whiz-bang spaceships and gadgetry. This gives it greater emotional resonance, allowing the Force Awakens to be a human film, with even the new Dark Lord, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) possessed by flesh-and-blood weaknesses, including a rotten temper and a tortured sense of what and who he has become.
Although Harrison Ford is back as Han Solo, with hirsute buddy Chewie, and Carrie Fisher returns as Princess Leia, now a matronly general, the impetus lies with the new arrivals, notably two young Brits who are punching for the good side, fighting and scrapping with the light behind them.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a feisty presence as a resourceful survivor from the planet Jakku, who scrapes together a living from scrap metal until the throb and hum of destiny sweeps her forward. She is a proper heroine: a fighter, argumentative, shin-kicking and handy with a lightsabre. Her companion Finn (John Boyega) is a refugee from the dark side, a former storm trooper who takes a redemptive jump into the light by turning on his former masters.
One thing modern movie technology allows for are truly impressive lightsabre fights, the ethereal blades swishing and clashing as if cast from steel, with Kylo Ren’s weapon being shaped like a traditional sword.
And there is genuine humour, proper wit in a film that summons up the excitement of a good old-fashioned night at the cinema. We watched the 3D version which had a few wobbles but not many, and once your eyes had told your brain to calm down dear, there were real visual treats in there too.
Great stuff all round, I’d say – but you’ll have to ask my fanboy sons and their fangirl sister, complete with her Stars Wars T-shirt, for the full story, and apologies from their father if the wrong end of the lightsabre has been grasped at any point.