Even though George Lucas sold the Star Wars franchise to Disney, the indelible influence of the visions and characters he created shines all through this new episode.
The Force Awakens retains all that has drawn us back repeatedly to experience the heroes and villains of that galaxy far, far away, and it revives familiar images and characters in an appealing and well-paced manner, offering an aging Han Solo (Harrison Ford, who looks about as good as can be expected for a guy who has survived two plane crashes, three marriages and the reviews for Six Days, Seven Nights), complete with all his sarcastic repartee and slanted smile in tact, in a more curmugeonly package. His one-time, on-screen love interest, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), has traded in her cinnamon bun hair style for a Danish braid to assume the role of a general in the Resistance, in their relentless fight against The First Order, the new breed of regimental fanatics out to destroy everything in their path -- the successor to The Empire, which gave us so much plot material in the previous installments.
Gone is the breathy Darth Vader, replaced by another evil-doer, Kylo Ron (Adam Driver, below), sporting a more stylized helmet, with attractive chrome running trim, which hides not a disfigured Vader, but rather, a handsome young man -- the son of of Leia and Solo, who, somewhere along the way, turned to the Dark Side, and is vaporizing nearby inhabited worlds with a highly focused death ray fire beam built on a planetary scale. He is accompanied by the familiar white-armored Star Troopers, who are still the lousiest shots in the Universe, and haven't been able to hit a single moving target in seven movies now.
Another newcomer to the Star Wars role call is Daisy Ridley as Rey, who, if there is a sequel, will no doubt, and should, be prominent. She fits the franchise like a glove, with a very watchable straight forward intensity that I totally enjoyed the first time I saw this movie, and enjoyed even more in the second viewing.
John Boyega as Finn, is the handsome hero, an African American actor who will give Denzel a run for his money in the looks department -- that's for sure.
John Boyega as Finn
Daisy Ridley as Rey
Adam Driver as Kylo Ron
The movement of the entire story is that The First Order wants to find Skywalker, the last keeper of the Jedi flame -- and destroy him. There are two maps that, when placed together reveals Skywalker's location. One of the partial maps has been entrusted to the most endearing of all the characters -- a medicine ball sized rolling droid known as BB8, a considerable technological upgrade from the R2D2 we've known all these years. BB8 manages to keep its head on straight, while its soccer ball body rolls beneath -- at high speed across sand dunes, through passageways and in and out of various spacecraft. It even manages to show emotion at various times. This is an actual working device -- not computer generated.
Maz Kanata, on the other hand, is a CGI product, looking like a cross between ET and an expiring pumpkin, outfitted with her zoom lens goggles and earphones, she is the proprietor of a tavern, and has a highly valued object once belonging to Luke Skywalker. Her voice is provided by Lupita Nyong'o, best known for her Best Supporting Actor Oscar for 12 Years a Slave in 2013.
R2D2 is not forgotten. It has the other partial map and we even get a few tweets and chirps out of it as well, with a few congratulatory remarks from nearby C3PO.
Also not forgotten is Chewbacca, with a more well-groomed look about him, accessorized with a stylish messenger bag and a broader range of sounds, some of which are quite humorous.
But Luke Skywalker is the ultimate character in this story, and the ultimate destination. Here is the Luke we remember.
He looks considerably different now. But don't we all.
It's really a very satisfying and thrilling movie. Very well done.
-- Thomas Ormsby