Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the perfect title for the series reboot. It’s actually ironic when you consider how George Lucas’ ill-conceived three-movie prequels more or less put us to sleep.
Director, co-writer and producer J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) further cements his fan-proclaimed genius as he wakes the Force up 30 years after Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated. The First Order is a new threat to the galaxy, and it’s run by an evil entity whose chief henchman is Kylo Renn. He’s a Darth Vader clone, complete with the heavy mask and black, hooded garb.
The Force Awakens starts with the good guys on the run and the new rebellion needing to find the last remaining Jedi — Luke Skywalker — to help them squash the First Order. He’s been out of sight for many years, and no one can find him. The First Order also wants him, and it’s a race to see who gets to Skywalker first.
Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina) is the rebellion’s best pilot and is sent to Jakku for the last piece of a map that will find Skywalker. When ambushed and captured by stormtroopers, he stashes it in cute little robot that rolls like a ball.
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At the same time, a stormtrooper — played by newcomer John Boyega — defects, saves the pilot and ends up back on Jakku, where he finds the robot. It’s following newcomer Daisy Ridley’s Rey. She’s a scavenger and was abandoned on the planet by what she thinks was her family.
By this time, you cautiously like what you see and are having a pretty good time. Then Harrison Ford’s Han Solo and Peter Mayhew’s Chewbacca show up and announce they’re home.
And at that point, so are you.
The Force is definitely awake. Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote the original series with George Lucas) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3) do what Abrams did with the new Star Trek series. They — if you’ll pardon using the wrong metaphor — boldly and cleverly go where the original series went before.
The Force Awakens flashes you back to 1977 and the original movie. And that’s complete with a really fun bar scene. It shouldn’t work, but it does. Where Lucas and his production crew focused too much on effects and technology to sell episodes I, II and III, Abrams and his co-writers go back to what made Star Wars so much fun in the first place, and that’s great characters, gobs of humor and plenty of action.
But what really makes this work is characters, and that starts with Ford, who played two great characters in his long career. They are Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Solo is his best. Back to the “at home” metaphor, he’s totally at home in The Force Awakens, and 32 years after he last played that part, so are we.
Not so much at home or nearly as comfortable is Carrie Fisher’s Leia. She seems a little out of place. We get reacquainted with Mark Hamill’s Skywalker, Anthony Daniels’ C-3PO and Kenny Baker’s R2-D2.
I can’t tell you a whole lot more about the movie. To learn of the many surprises and twists ruins the experience. I hope this one gets the same tight-lipped respect The Sixth Sense got in 1999. But in 1999, the Internet was in its infancy, and Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist, and people weren’t nearly as blabby.
Here’s what I can tell you. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most fun I’ve had in a theater all year, and it deserves the maybe-$2 billion it’s going to earn in the next few months. And there’s more to come. Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ climax ends with a cliff hanger, and it’s really on a cliff.
Movies don’t get any more fun than that.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Lupita Nyong’o
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. It’s playing at the Carmike 12, the Fairchild Cinemas 12, the Queensgate 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.