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My love of movies began with seeing The Empire Strikes Back in a packed movie theater.  The crowd was rowdy, it was truly the first time I could feel an energy while waiting to see a film.  Anticipation, excitement, and wonder were all around.  When Yoda tells Luke – “For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship”, I truly understood what he meant because of the way the crowd reacted to the movie.

Nostalgia is good and bad.  It can be good because it comforts us, providing memories of better times.   It can also be bad, as we tend to focus on only the best and loving memories, glossing over the problems or issues with the experience that we are having in the current moment.    The Force Awakens provides nostalgia in whopping amounts, hitting the viewer again and again.   And because Star Wars figured so prominently in my childhood, I never stopped smiling (and shedding a tear of joy or two).

JJ Abrams did it.  As the director of the first movie under Disney, who paid George Lucas 4 billion dollars(!!) to the rights for Star Wars, he had a monumental task.   I am very happy that Disney gave the reigns to JJ as he is a fellow Star Wars geek.    He truly loved the first set of movies.  And in this movie he lovingly takes from the first set and places it again up on screen for all to see.   He makes several brilliant decisions with this movie, bringing back the old cast, using practical effects, and simply casting new leads of whom the viewer can be invested in.  A fantastic job by JJ.

My one concern is the number of times they re-used portions of the first trilogy in this movie.   And I get why they did it.  Wash away the bad taste in everyone’s mouth from the prequels.   Use the older films to start off the new series of films because everyone loves them.  OK, JJ and Co, that’s it. No more re-treads.   If a Death Star like weapon in the next movie, I am docking the film two stars right off the bat.

You gotta feel both nervous and glad for director and writer Rian Johnson. He will get a chance to take Episode 8 and go in  a different direction.   Nervous, because he gets this shiny new r Star Wars universe to play with and he also has the new and old cast in an original story.  Glad, because the story can be told with a fresh set of ideas and doesn’t have to mimic the old set of films.

I am going to avoid writing about any spoilers in this review.  Some other media outlets can do that.  I truly want all of you to experience this movie first hand.  The scale of the film is excellent and sound and cinematography are fantastic and deserve Academy Award nominations.

As I mentioned before, the idea of casting the older stars and mixing them in with a fresh crop of stars is brilliant.   Seeing the old characters on film just made me smile again and again.  From Chewbacca to Admiral Ackbar, I just kept being reminded about what was good with the first films.  And the supporting characters are excellent in this film.  Chewbacca is funny, imposing, and just a delight to see on screen.  R2 D2 and C3PO provide just the right touches at the right moments in the film.

Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa is a wonder.  Fisher plays her with such a sense of responsibility and weariness.  When she is on screen, the movie settles into the drama it needs to be,  giving the viewer a sense of the enormity of the decisions as well as her investment personally in the Rebellion and Resistance.

Mark Hamill is fantastic.  His facial expressions and eyes show the pain, guilt, and loss he has felt.   Hamill is a wonder on screen and gives us a taste of the excitement and good things to come.  He just pops and has us wondering how soon Episode 8 will be here!  May 26th, 2017 for all of you wondering…

Harrison Ford.  Harrison Ford.  Nope that is not a typo.  I had to write it twice because the director hitched his wagon to Ford and he delivers.   JJ knows Harrison has a blockbuster or two under his belt, so a good portion of the movie is him and the new cast.  And what a wonder it is.  He just kills it. He as depth to him and when he talks about the Jedi and Dark Side, you get the feeling from him that he is still thinking “I have seen these things, but still don’t believe them”.  Ford is the MVP of the movie, giving it a grounded feeling while still provide the smirking, smart ass attitude of Han Solo.

Oscar Isaac is very good as the best pilot in the Resistance, Poe Dameron. He is confident and brash, very capable and truly forms a bromance with John Boyega’s Finn.  It will be interesting to see where they go with this character in future films as he has so much promise.

John Boyega as the Finn is fantastic.  His comedic timing is perfect and he has a “what the heck did I get myself into” attitude throughout the film.  He provides just the right touch of drama and really plays off Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, very well.

Adam Driver.   Wow.   Just Wow.  His dark side driven Kylo Ren is fantastic. He just chews up every scene he is in.  I always judge a movie by how good a villain is and he is very good.   His portrayal is frightening.  Up until now, every Star Wars bad guy moved with a purpose, a sense of deviousness and plodding methodology.  What happens if a dark side baddie was overly emotional?  Well, here is your answer.  When he is mad, look out.  Oh and Driver is just brilliant with his physical movements. A few times he turned while in costume with the mask and I thought “Uh Oh, here is comes”.  He was able to convey a sense of dread and evil just by how he moves in the film.

Daisy Ridley is a revelation.  She provides such a fresh face and sense of wonder to the film.  And how awesome is it that she is an action star.  I really hope they explain how she got her moves, but she is the heroine that this new set of films can rely on going forward.  She really connects with us, allowing us to invest in her character and at the same time, watch her grow with a wide eyed wonderment.  She also provides the best instant classic line in the movie – “Oh that’s just a piece of garbage”.   Them the camera swings to reveal the Millennium Falcon!   Ridley is going to explode after this movie, if she handle everything right, every nerd will love her, girls will adore her, and she will have legions of fans.

The visuals in the movie are award worthy.   The way they shot the flying scenes with the Millennium Falcon are just awe inspiring.  Some of the best scenes are the Falcon flying and how much they beat the daylights out of the ship.   No wonder it keeps breaking down!

That being said – the film is a triumph!  4 stars – A Hitting a Mark Recommendation!