My favourite Star Wars movie has always been The Emperor Strikes Back, largely thanks to a dazzling script by Lawrence Kasdan (based on an earlier draft by the late Leigh Brackett, a distinguished female science fiction novelist and screenwriter).
Kasdan is also responsible for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Body Heat and Grand Canyon. It is wonderful news to report that he is back on the new Star Wars flick.
And what a flick it is. It's such a great film that I think it has actually supplanted The Empire Strikes Back in my estimation as the best of Star Wars.
I've now seen The Force Awakens more than once, and it is particularly remarkable in that it's almost as enjoyable on repeated viewings. There is very little dip in the pleasure of watching it, despite knowing what will happen next.
I attribute this to an amazingly well crafted script in which something interesting, unexpected or gratifying is always taking place, each new scene smoothly replacing the old one.
I guess this might also have been an attribute of Raiders of the Lost Ark, but the film I'm really reminded of is Chinatown (written by Robert Towne) in which I felt every scene was great.
Kasdan has co-written The Force Awakens with director J.J. Abrams, who has also done a wonderful job on shooting the movie. They were working from an earlier draft by Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3). And of course the characters were created by George Lucas.
Much credit must also be given to an amazingly good cast, newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in particular. It's very much to the film's credit that so much of it concerns women and black people — two kinds of human being who seemed to be virtually off George Lucas's radar.
Brit actress Daisy Ridley is especially magnificent. She comes close to carrying the movie single-handed. Which is why it's so invidious that in the flood of toys and merchandise exploiting the film, there are virtually none featuring her character Rey. Sexism is alive and well, folks. (Though business acumen seems to be stone dead — people could make a vast fortune selling Rey stuff.)
I had always defended George Lucas's three prequels (Phantom Menace and whatever the hell the other two were called — "Sith"-something and Something-or-other "Clones"). But I'm afraid those days are over. The Force Awakens is such a good movie it shows up how wretchedly mediocre those earlier efforts were.
One last thing — I am generally not a fan of 3D, but this film actually looks pretty good in that format. And it isn't even true 3D; the movie was shot in 2D and retrofitted. So, go figure...
(Image credits: All the posters are from Imp Awards where, not surprisingly, there were particularly rich pickings.)