The moment the iconic John Williams theme erupts and the words begin to scroll, it will be impossible for any Star Wars fan to not be a little excited. No spoilers allowed in this review because Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a film experience that should not be ruined by too much information. Director J.J. Abrams tackles the monumental feat of rejuvenating the Star Wars franchise, mixing nostalgia with new characters on a new adventure with skill and confidence while also remaining loyal to the fanbase that will be waiting in long lines for the opportunity to remember why they fell in love with Star Wars in the first place. To the achievement of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it excels and satisfies at nearly every turn.
Episode VII takes place thirty years after the destruction of the Death Star and the demise of the Galactic Empire. Peace has thrived throughout the galaxy, but a new dark threat is rising to disrupt order. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) commands the First Order with the help of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a masked villain who wields a lightsaber. The Resistance is fighting this new evil foe with the help of a rebel pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a young scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) living alone on a desert planet, and a soldier named Finn (John Boyega); the group will do all they can to keep peace in the galaxy.
At the very minimum that’s all you need to know. Mr. Abrams and company have crafted a narrative that delivers a bit of everything for both fanatics and those unfamiliar with the universe. There are numerous moments in the film that seem handcrafted for Star Wars superfans. All of the best and memorable aspects of the past six films are utilized in effective and meaningful ways here, offering many nods to the past and establishing small steps that will lead into the future of the continued saga. Still, even though it utilizes clever Shakespearian influences familiar throughout all the films and follows the Joseph Campbell storytelling blueprint from The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the film never forgets what George Lucas created and what, at its core, it achieves, which is producing that sense of childlike wonder and consistently remaining adventurous and fun.
The film centers around two new cast members, Ridley and Boyega, who both give especially genuine performances. This is an accommodation to their ability as actors but also to the script, which allows the characters both heartfelt and playful moments, each of which are charming and comedic. It is a difficult task for two new actors to remain shining when the shadow of their iconic counterparts loom so intimidatingly. Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo and upon his first moment onscreen immediately fits comfortably back into the role, which he hasn’t played for nearly three decades. Add the back and forth repartee with Chewbacca and, similarly to what Han Solo says in the trailer, you’re home.
The Star Wars prequels in some ways tarnished what the original films established. It’s safe to say that J.J. Abrams has given fans new hope with The Force Awakens. While the film reintroduces the audience to the world of the past—both the characters and myth left behind—the future isn’t given much exploration, which leaves many obvious questions for subsequent films to answer. But you won’t notice this aspect until you leave the theater and give the film some further thought. That’s an attribute to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, because it is such an experience. It’s a film that offers older audiences the joyous nostalgic feelings from when they saw Star Wars for the first time and, even more approvingly, it shows a new generation of fans the memorable experience of why going to the movies is such a special and magical thing.
Movie Score: 4/5