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Film Review: Star Wars The Force Awakens

Updated on December 23, 2015

It began in a galaxy far, far away, this Star Wars film. It continued through one, then two other films to complete a trilogy. Years later, another three films completed a second trilogy which was a prequel to the original saga. And then, we waited...

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And today, that wait is over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived in theaters for us to see and pass judgement on. Will it be better than the second set of films? Will it come close to what we fell in love with in the original trilogy? Or will it be a monumental flop: one of the greatest in cinema history?

From Disney's standpoint: will it make money?

Based upon the figures released from its first weekend, I would say that that's a safe bet. Stateside opening weekend somewhere north of $250,000,000.00; worldwide closing in on $600,000,000.00 for the first three and a half days. Not too shabby, eh?

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The Plot

The story opens on a planet where a Resistance pilot named Poe Dameron is attempting to smuggle data in a droid (the cute beyond belief BB-8) when the First Order arrives. Killing any and all in its path, the leader of the stormtroopers named Kylo Ren captures Dameron but not BB-8. Rolling his way off in the sand, he eventually meets up with a scrapper named Rae. Rae develops an affinity for the little 'bot and allows it to tag along.

Meanwhile, Kylo Ren tortures Dameron to discover the location of the stolen information. What is this information, you ask? None other than a map which leads to Luke Skywalker. It appears that Luke had been training some young Jedi knights when he was betrayed and decided to no longer train, instead leaving and secluding himself somewhere in the stars. He left behind a map of sorts for someone to find him when he was needed. The First Order desires to find and eliminate him while the Resistance needs him to become a leader once more.

During the battle on Jakku we notice a Stormtrooper who seems to be different from the others. When death and destruction surround him, he falters a bit, seemingly human behind the mask. Can it be there is a mind hidden behind the mask? As it turns out, there is. FN-2187, to be known as Finn, has ben through the indoctrination process to become a Stormtrooper yet retains his humanity.

Following Dameron's torture, Finn helps him escape the ship and together they travel back to Jakku in search of the droid BB-8. They are pursued and crash on the planet. Dameron is not in evidence at the crash site and Finn believes him to be dead. Fleeing the crash site, Finn sees BB-8 with a young woman, Rae. Together they attempt to escape the onslaught of First Order Tie Fighters attacking them. Rae leads them toward a decrepit star ship that we soon discover is...

The Millennium Falcon! Yes, the famous star freighter is back! Spontaneous applause breaks out in the theater as we recognized the old ship from our youth. For the first time in my life I am part of an audience participation at a movie. The applause was genuine, happy and worthwhile as it has been some thirty years since we last viewed the Falcon.

Somehow, Rae understands this ship and flies it away from the planet. She pilots it off into space when suddenly, a tractor beam of sorts begins to draw the Falcon toward a large ship. Fearing the worst, both she and Finn hide in the smuggling compartments to evade capture. AS they huddle beneath the decks, a door opens and...

Harrison Ford (aka Han Solo) appear! Applause applause applause!!! With hoots and howls, the theater fills with happy sounds as Han once again strides across the decking and says "Chewy, we're home!". Knowing the Falcon as he does, it takes mere moments for him to discover the stowaways.

They convince him to fly to a safe planet where they met up with a strange alien who seems to know Han all too well. As Rae wanders away she is drawn to a room filled with what appears to be junk and opens a small chest. The chest contains a light saber; Luke's light saber. She touches it and is transfixed by images from her past. Releasing it, she notices she has been seen by the person Han came to see. She is encouraged to take the saber as it quite obviously drew her to it. She refuses, then they are interrupted as a battle begins outside.

Fleeing the building, Rae runs into the woods. Finn was going to leave but returns to find her. Finn ends up with the light saber and battles his former colleagues, the Stormtroopers. Kylo Ren appears and a wonderful battle ensues. Eventually, Rae is captured and Kylo Ren and his First Order Stormtroopers return to their ships and leave.

Finn is desperate to save Rae and enlists Chewy and Han in his plans to free her. They sneak onto the Death Planet, a new and far more deadly weapon than any conceived of before. While attempting to free Rae, they find Rae has actually managed to free herself. She discovers through torture by Kylo Ren that she has The Force within her and uses it against her guardian, encouraging him to release her.

As they attempt to get together, Han heads out on a separate mission: to find Kylo Ren. You see, Kylo Ren is Han and Leia's son. He betrayed the Jedi training his uncle Luke began, causing Luke to disappear and rethink his position as a Jedi. Kylo Ren then sought out Supreme Chancellor Snoth to continue his training of The Dark Side. While Ren still has some good within him, he is conflicted, constantly at battle with himself to overcome his "weakness".

Han finds Ren on a walkway and confronts him. Father and son seek a reconciliation and as Han walks toward Ren, Ren tells him h knows what he must do but is not strong enough. He asks for his father's assistance. Han readily agrees and reaches for his son who them...

Activates his own light saber and stabs Han through the heart! Han then falls from the walkway and disappears in the depths of the power source of the Death Planet. A loud "No!!!!!!" resounded through the theater as we realized Han Solo was dead.

Ren follows Rae and Finn outside and a major light saber battle takes place. Finn is injured and on the ground when Rae takes up the fight. Her lack of training does not hamper her as The Force flows through her, enabling her to eventually defeat Ren.

Gathering Finn up, she returns to the Falcon, now its master and captain. Chewy assists her as they head back to the headquarters of the Resistance. Leaving Finn in the hands of its doctors, she leaves The Resistance in search of Luke Skywalker.

She finds him, and the film ends with her extending her arm, hand containing his light saber.

Applause breaks out once more and many remain seated watching the credits roll. More than a few have tears in their eyes, no doubt for the dearly departed Han Solo. Eventually, people begin to move towards the exits, chattering happily about the film.

There is much, much more than described here for you to discover when you see it. Humor abounds, a casual easy banter that feels right here. There is no forced acting, no stilted lines, no forcing anything; it is presented with an ease that surprised me. This film was far, far better than I expected it to be.

Overall, The Force Awakens is reminiscent and compares favorably with the original Star Wars film. Some will notice a parallel between the two and some critics are not happy with that. For my son and I and the several hundred who saw it together I can say no one at the theater cared one bit. It was two hours of excitement, thrills, tears, cheers and extreme fun for all. The only part that met with sadness was when Han Solo died.

However, as evidenced in other films and shows, all may not be as it seems. Reportedly all cast members will be returning for Star Wars Episode VIII which begins filming shortly after the new year with an opening of late May 2017. So Han may make a triumphant return once more.

My son and I were thrilled with the film and will more than likely see it again at our favorite $5.00 theater again soon. I have to applaud Werhenberg Theaters in our nearby city for holding costs at the reasonable cost of $5.00 for matinee shows and $7.50 for evening shows: your patrons thank you. Imagine seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening weekend for $5.00 each. Try that in California or New York!

It was good to see Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill together again in character. We missed Han, Leia and Luke and look forward to seeing how they continue to guide the next group of actors in this saga. It was fun, it was wonderful to bridge not one or two or three but sometimes even four generations together for this film. Disney did a wonderful job on this film and we look forward to Episode VIII in 2017. Running the risk of being cliché, I will end this with:

May the Force be with you.

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