STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS (12A) 135 minutes. Starring Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley.

MORE than 10 years after Anakin Skywalker was seduced by the dark side of the Force and wielded a lightsabre in battle against his mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith, the seventh chapter of George Lucas' sprawling saga lands in a whirlwind of frenzied hype.

Director JJ Abrams, who revitalised the Star Trek franchise, sits in the director's chair for this new instalment, which is set approximately 30 years after the tumultuous events of Return Of The Jedi. Miraculously, plot details have remained under a veil of secrecy since the film began shooting in April 2014, and Abrams has masterminded a refreshingly restrained marketing campaign that has propelled ardent fans on social media to the brink of meltdown with each tantalising behind-the-scenes photograph or trailer.

The omission of one major character from advertising material sparked endless 140 character-long theories and debate, posing uncomfortable questions about the fates of iconic protagonists since the Rebel Alliance celebrated a famous victory over the Imperial fleet and destroyed the Death Star. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher) - now referred to as General Organa - bear the deep emotional scars of their encounters with the dark side of the Force, which is led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his dangerous and unpredictable protege, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

This battle royale brings together new heroes and villains including self-sufficient scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) from the desert planet Jakku, First Order stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) who possesses an important artefact, and fearless Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Their fates entwine with pirate and canteen owner Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o), ruthless First Order base leader General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and beloved sidekicks Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker). Prepare for record-breaking box office takings and gnashing teeth emoticons as plot spoilers leak online following the film's world premiere this week in Los Angeles. The Force is still strong.