Nearly 40 years after “Star Wars” exploded the pop culture universe & practically became a religion for generations of fans, và a full decade after many of those same fans felt betrayed và defeated by “Revenge of the Sith,” the seventh “Star Wars” movie could well bear the same subtitle as the original:

“A New Hope.”

What a beautiful, thrilling, joyous, surprising và heart-thumping adventure this is. “The Force Awakens” pops with memorable battle sequences, gives us chills with encore appearances by stars from the original trilogy and introduces more than a half-dozen terrific Next Generation characters.

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If the U.S. Presidential election were held this weekend, director-producer-co-writer J.J. Abrams might carry the day based on geek tư vấn alone.

“The Force Awakens” is mix about 30 years after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” Of course Abrams begins with the familiar blue text telling us this all takes place “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” và then we get the iconic yellow crawl text giving us some basic backstory and letting us know where we are now.

And then boom! We’re off và running. (More often, flying và soaring và zigging & zagging.)

BB-8 | Lucasfilm
Oscar Isaac has more than a bit of Han Solo swagger as Poe Dameron, the best X-wing fighter pilot in the Resistance, and his traveling companion & best little buddy is BB-8, a droid who holds the key lớn the future of the rebellion against the First Order, an evil và dominant military-political organization inspired by the Galactic Empire.

(About BB-8. He just might be the droid you’re looking for this holiday season, because the hype for “The Force Awakens” has been so insane & the kinh doanh so intense, we knew about BB-8 as a pricey & cool toy well before BB-8 ever made his big-screen debut.)

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: 4 out of 4



John Boyega is funny & vulnerable & conflicted as Finn, a First Order stormtrooper who has a crisis of conscience, và let’s just leave it at that. Boyega is given some of the best lines in the richly layered screenplay by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan & Michael Arndt, and he delivers a half-dozen laugh-out-loud moments. Finn is the closest thing to lớn how one of us might act & feel if we found ourselves in the middle of an epic “Star Wars” adventure.

The British actress Daisy Ridley, bearing more than a slight resemblance to Keira Knightley, has a breakout performance as Rey, a plucky scavenger on the junkyard wasteland planet Jakku. Like many of her generation, Rey isn’t even sure if the Force is an actual thing, or if Han Solo và Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia are real people or the stuff of myth. Rey is tough & resourceful & smart & brave but not immune to being utterly terrified when she comes face lớn face with the nguồn of the Force — and the Dark Side.

Combining local shoots, elaborate studio mix pieces, practical effects và CGI, “The Force Awakens” is often visually dazzling, whether Rey is taking a sled ride of sorts down a desert hill, the midnight-black universe is suddenly lit up with firefights & explosions, or we’re introduced khổng lồ miraculous creatures such as Maz Kanata (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o), a tiny power broker who might not have the wisdom of Yoda but knows a LOT about what’s going on.

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N’yongo isn’t the only actor playing a character enveloped in special effects or obscured by a mask most of the time. Adam Driver wears a Vader-esque getup as Kylo Ren, commander of the First Order. Andy Serkis, the undisputed champion of the performance-capture roles (“The Lord of the Rings” & modern-day “Planet of the Apes” films) is the hissing and grotesque Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren’s master & the most powerful representative of the Dark Side. Old favorites Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) & C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) return, forever encased in their iconic shells and forever charming and lovable. (Well, in C-3PO’s case, forever combining a dash of charm with a tendency to irritate a little.)

Harrison Ford as Han Solo in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” | Lucasfilm
It’s no Spoiler Alert to lớn acknowledge Harrison Ford’s return as Han Solo — và it’s a full-fledged role and not just an extended cameo. Ford’s a great movie star but he’s never had the widest range as an actor, but at 73, he seems to be having more fun playing Han Solo now than he did back in the day. He’s still crusty and snarling and cynical, but he’s a lot quicker khổng lồ reveal the real heart inside. Ford has a terrific father-figure chemistry with Ridley and Boyega.

I’ll discuss even less what has happened to Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia và Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker since we last saw them. Suffice khổng lồ say Abrams has done a masterful job of linking the old guard with the new generation, & telling their stories in grand và bold fashion.

Not everyone will love the new “Star Wars.” Maybe some fans & critics won’t find the fresh characters nearly as memorable as the classics. No doubt some will be flat-out ticked off at certain developments.

Better khổng lồ take such risks than khổng lồ give us a “Star Wars” sequel that plays it safe or ventures into weirdness và goofiness và Jar Jar Binks.

May 26, 2017. That’s when “Episode VIII” is scheduled to be released.

Can’t wait.

Lucasfilm presents a film directed by J.J. Abrams & written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan và Michael Arndt. Running time: 136 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence).