The wait is over. The movie event of the year is here. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, number seven in the series for those who wouldn’t know a Jedi from a Jar Jar, emerges bloody with unrealistic expectations but gloriously unbowed. It’s everything the kid in us goes to the movies for — marvelous adventure that leaves us surprised, scared and euphoric. So let out a Wookiee roar for director J.J. Abrams who sweeps us out of the black hole of George’s Lucas’ trilogy of paralyzingly dull Star Wars prequels and into a brave new world.
Okay, not quite. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is basically an updated remake of Star Wars: A New Hope, the 1977 Lucas original that changed the face of movie space epics and made us all one with the Force. Now it’s three decades later. Our heroes have a little age on them, they being Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). It’s great that Chewbacca, C3Po and R2D2 look exactly the same. The newbies are repped by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a desert scavenger abandoned by her family on Jukku; Finn (John Boyega), an AWOL stormtrooper with little taste for killing; and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a pilot working for Leia, a princess turned general who now leads the Resistance.
Hey, wait up. Didn’t 1983’s Return of the Jedi feature Ewoks dancing their fluffy tails off over the demise of Darth Vader and the defeat of the Empire. Yeah, but what would a Star Wars movie be without evil? So Abrams and cowriters Michael Arndt and Lawrence Kasdan (he co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) provide a doozy. A fresh malevolence called the First Order has emerged from the ruins of the Empire. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis by motion capture) operates out of a space station that makes the Death Star look like a Lego. His villainous young protégé is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a masked figure who communes so regularly with Vader’s mangled helmet that a long future in therapy is a given. The bald-faced attempt to clone Vader, one of the greatest badasses in film history, is clankingly obvious, but Driver, masked and unmasked, gives him hypnotic and haunting contours.