STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS poster | © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS poster | © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd.

Rating: PG-13
Stars:
Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Domnhall Gleeson
Writers:
Lawrence Kasdan & J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt, based on characters created by George Lucas
Director:
J.J. Abrams
Distributor:
Disney
Release Date:
December 18, 2015

If there ever was a movie where just about nobody cared what the reviews were like, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS is it. The legions who love George Lucas’ original creation don’t give a flying Fett what anyone has to say – if there’s a chance that the magic spark has ignited anew, they will make up their own minds about that, one by one, without hindrance or encouragement.

This would seem to leave a reviewer uncommonly free to comment, except that nobody – not the fans, not the detractors, not the general public, definitely not the filmmakers and distributors – want any spoilers out there, and it’s pretty hard to discuss a film entirely in generalities.

And yeah, we know it’s Friday, the truth is out there by now. Nevertheless, in an attempt to write a review with the least amount of spoilers possible, here goes. Director J.J. Abrams and his co-screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan (who also co-wrote original STAR WARS trilogy installments THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and THE RETURN OF THE JEDI) and Michael Arndt have done their flat-out best to figure out what feels like STAR WARS and gone from there.

This doesn’t mean THE FORCE AWAKENS is predictable, just that there is a clear, conscious effort to maintain balance in the filmic Force, not only in terms of narrative and visuals, but also in emotions. So there’s a thrill when ships launch, genuine laughter when a hero quips, real how-can-they-get-out-of-this suspense when a situation seems impossible and a sense of joy when the Force asserts itself in aid of the Light.

The story beats here are different from those in STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE, but they arrive in more or less the same place as those in the original and largely give rise to the same visceral results.

Most of the design innovations, large and small, are all to the good, especially when it comes to small droids. The costumes aren’t copies, yet the aesthetics are still solidly in line with what has come before. Most of the new cast members are highly effective, with Daisy Ridley shining. Wisely, composer John Williams, who is as integral a part of STAR WARS as anyone or anything else, is back at the musical helm, his familiar themes convincing our innards of what a scene is about before our brains have time to process the information.

And yet there are two aspects of THE FORCE AWAKENS that are arguably disappointing. One is a relatively mild shrug of a thing, the other much deeper the more one contemplates the implications. (And no, it’s not the very first thing that may come to mind.) They’re both impossible to discuss in any way, shape or form without getting spoilerific, and your mileage will doubtless vary, depending on any number of factors.

Still, THE FORCE AWAKENS is the genuine article when it comes to STAR WARS. There’s no reinventing of the wheel here, but an authentic, enthusiastic and well-observed continuation of the universe.

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