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​“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” makes the old new again

JJ Abrams’ revival walks the fine line between homage and something brand new

<p>The instantly-classic poster for Episode VII</p>

The instantly-classic poster for Episode VII

The wait is finally over, and it was all worth it in the end. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” aces in reviving the feel of the classic original trilogy while setting a course for the future. The tone is full of fun, wonder, adventure and humor, but not without dramatic weight. The story is timeless and the characters are so captivating that reused plot elements are not much of a problem. It’s an old canvas on which to draw the beginning of a new story. The old is made new again, and the line between backward-looking homage and forward-looking excitement is walked delicately but effectively.

The story is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi,” and it isn’t spoiling anything to say that the struggle between the dark side and the light carries on. The movie wisely forgoes getting bogged down in the details of the post-“Jedi” world, and instead it establishes the broad strokes that allow this story to breathe on its own. The action is thrilling and pulse-racingly captivating. The movie moves at a very fast pace, and yet each plot and character beat is felt. While the plot takes an enormous amount of inspiration from the original movie, the journeys of the new characters feel fresh and exhilarating. The nostalgia moments and callbacks are an added benefit that don't overshadow the new material. Even better, many of these elements serve and strengthen the story at hand, successfully harnessing the characters’ and audiences’ history and relationship with the franchise.

While it is wonderful seeing Han Solo, (now General) Leia and Luke Skywalker again, the new characters steal the show. It is not exaggerating to say that the casting is pitch-perfect and the result is a cast full of instant classic characters that measure up to the legends with whom they share the screen. Daisy Ridley is marvelous as new hero Rey. An abandoned scavenger longing for family and belonging, she delivers in every scene, whether it's kicking butt, geeking out or discovering her destiny. John Boyega is likewise excellent as redeemed Stormtrooper Finn, bringing a loose and funny-yet-intense energy to every scene. He and Rey make a delightful team whose chemistry clicks from the first second they meet. Adam Driver delivers incredible work as villain Kylo Ren. Co-Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan wasn’t kidding when he said "There's never been a character like Kylo in the saga.” It would be a crime to reveal much else (even though all the movie's secrets are public knowledge at this point). Oscar Isaac gives good-guy pilot Poe Dameron a mildly cocky swagger, and Domnhall Gleeson puts on his best sneer for the villainous General Hux and cranks it up to 11. The veterans deliver as well, particularly Harrison Ford as the smuggler that made him a star. He effortlessly slips back into this scoundrel’s vest and boots, but not without bringing the melancholy and heart that only come with 30 years of life experience. It was a very wise move to keep the veterans in supporting roles while focusing on the new generation.

The biggest acknowledgment must go to director JJ Abrams, who is clearly making his dream movie. The passion can be felt in every shot, and screenings around the world suggest he is reigniting the same passion that made Star Wars a cultural beacon. "The Force Awakens" passes the torch to a new generation, and it is thrilling to imagine what can come next. The ground is laid for the future, yet “The Force Awakens” delivers as a stand-alone story. Episode VIII (due in May 2017) cannot come soon enough.


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