“Star Wars” is back, baby, and it rocks.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” returns to the spirit of the original films, leaving the ungainly and unneeded clumsiness of the subsequent prequels far behind. Yes, it helps that the core group of original actors has returned, but it’s more the energy, humor and simplicity of direction that has been recaptured. It’s the overall vibe.
“The Force Awakens” is very much an homage to the first “Star Wars” film, right down to a nightclub filled with bizarre creatures and in so many other details and sequences. Yet it also introduces a group of (mostly) strong new characters who seem perfectly capable of carrying the banner forward.
It also offers up a great new villain, Kylo Ren, played deliciously by Adam Driver. Kylo Ren literally worships at the altar of Darth Vader and wears a similar black mask, although thankfully he takes it off once in a while to let Driver’s heat out.
Much as Vader before him, Kylo Ren is one of the leaders of a new dark army, the First Order, which is out to conquer, well, everything, and any planets they can’t conquer they’re happy to blow up.
The resistance to the First Order is being led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher). And the resistance’s first order of business is to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi Knight, who’s gone into seclusion ever since his training of a protégé went bad.
As the film opens, a map that may lead to Skywalker is given to a resistance fighter pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). But Poe is about to be captured, so he inserts the map into an adorable little android named BB8 (sound familiar?). And BB8 scoots across the desert with mankind’s hope of salvation.
Meanwhile, one of the First Order’s storm troopers, Finn (John Boyega) is forced to witness the slaughter of innocent villagers and suddenly realizes he doesn’t want to be one of the bad guys. Back on the mother ship, he helps Poe escape, and Poe’s first priority is going back to pick up BB8.
Unfortunately the ship Poe and Finn are on takes a hit and they land in the desert. Finn survives but can’t find Poe. Luckily, he does find a resourceful young woman named Ray (Daisy Ridley, a star is born), who just happens to be hanging out with BB8. After a bit of discussion, they agree they have to get BB8 to the resistance, and the story takes off from there. Soon enough Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) show up and the party’s on.
Actually the party’s pretty much on immediately in this movie and it rarely stops. Director J.J. Abrams, who wrote the script with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, hits the ground running and certainly delivers the most breathless “Star Wars” movie yet.
Quibbles? Sure, a few. Finn isn’t really fleshed out, and Poe is re-introduced with a sudden flimsy explanation. And with its basic premise of family dissonance, as well as so many other familiar touchstones, some may think the film too similar to the original.
But let’s face it; the original “Star Wars” was great. There are way worse role models. Simply put, “The Force Awakens” makes you feel good about “Star Wars” again.
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Running time: 135 minutes