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INTERACTIVE (Rate the Review)
Cinema Signal: Plenty of action; faithful to the original; great return of the franchise. Green light! MOBILE version |
. "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens"
[Spoilers? Probably. If you haven't seen it, go further only if you don't care]

Putting nostalgia for a beloved piece of film history aside, there's enough here to make one rejoice that director J.J. Abrams and screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt were chosen by Disney to inject this renewal of Lucas' genius with character ideas and fresh blood (and boxoffice calculation) to update an adventure concept like no other. The daring it took to satisfy audience expectations after a 15-year franchise slumber appears to have been rewarded.

In series tradition, a long scroll receding into the galaxy (to John Williams' theme music) catches us up on where we are in serial history. It informs us that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (handsomely aged Mark Hamill), has gone missing, presumed to be self-exiled to some corner of the galaxy, and everyone is trying to find him. The First Order and its Supreme Leader Snoke, voiced with electronic diffusion by Andy Serkis as a Sith giant of evil and supernatural power who wants to rule the universe, must find and kill him in order to bring about the destruction of the Republic and the pesky Resistance, led by Leia Organa, Luke's sister and its general, who desperately needs Luke's guidance.

Entering the picture (in fact, starting it) is fetching, athletic Rey (Daisy Ridley), a sprightly scavenger on the planet Jakku whose goal is to hack out an existence by plucking anything she can find in the dessert dust that can be traded for a meal.

But, there's a sinister connection to this negotiation of a trade for food.

A fragment of a map to Skywalker's whereabouts is found by Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, "A Most Violent Year") who stashes the fragment within the electronic innards of the new droid, BB-8. But is the fragment authentic? Can it be trusted?

Discovered by The First Order to be "force-sensitive" before Rey, herself, knows that a power lives within her, Snoke, appearing as a gigantic hologram that hides his true identity (a Sith?), focuses his generals and their stormtroopers on her as an enemy. Rey, who has a new friend in ex-stormtrooper Finn (as a possible romantic theme but I thought the chemistry shallow and by-the-book) as she allies with the Resistance. She's aghast to meet legendary smuggler and heroic pilot Han Solo and his first mate Chewbacca, becoming (with Finn) part of their team. The chase takes our heroes to the Alliance's Echo Base on planet Takodana thinking it a refuge. But the evil one senses the move.

Droid BB-8 is among the most interesting new characters for Episode 7. Besides a half-globe head that "rides" on a cue-ball body, its big leap forward is artificial intelligence that allows for learning. It's charming and strategic with its human-like adaptability. [Commercial Warning: For your own BB-8. Just click the pic.]

With enough obscurity and hidden identities, Abrams & Co. keep the interest in the series going (We now have to know what brooding leader Luke will do and if he'll have a role to play in the rescue of The Force!. For that, see the sequel.)

While fans flood theatre boxoffices in record numbers here and abroad, Disney is no less likely to be rejoicing over the $2 Billion it spent purchasing the rights to "Star Wars" from creator George Lucas' and his LucasFilm company. This is more than a smart move. It's film history.

The creative team is to be commended for a franchise resurrection that catches the spirit and inventiveness of what knocked the socks off a prior generation of sci-fi film fans while adding new characters that fit the mold and spirit of its origins -- a human plus battle against a hostile and evil enemy power that wants to rule the universe -- a concept of epic entertainment proportions.

Fun, as long as it lasts.

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                                                                              ~~  Jules Brenner  


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Daisy Ridley as Rey and her new friend Finn (John Boyuega) scoot away from that nasty blast.

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