A 100% Major Spoiler Free Review:
Cue the trumpets, echoes of the Imperial March, the lightsabers, the good ol’ fashioned puppetry, the swipe screens, the characters you know and love bantering even with their lives on the line. The Force Awakens has redeemed itself from the prequels that left audiences scratching their heads and protesting the existence of Jar Jar Binks. Even with some shortcomings, it’s safe to say nerds will be satisfied with Episode VII, a total crowd-pleaser.
The plot throws it back to the originals with our young (and old) heroes accompanying a droid with classified information on a mission to save (you guessed it) a planet targeted by the new regime of Stormtroopers. This sounds all too familiar, but the film manages to avoid dull repetition while still including nostalgic touches such as catchphrases and poking fun at the vaguely defined powers of the “Force.” The way the new characters are roped into the galaxy-saving business is questionable in regards to motives, but this is hardly noticeable because of the lightsaber action and actual character-developing conversations.
If anyone had the biggest cinema responsibilities in the 21st Century, it would be the folks at Lucasfilm and Disney. It’s similar to the pressure Joss Whedon faced in Age of Ultron, only tenfold—this is a movie to keep hardcore fans happy, to establish the rest of the franchise, and to entrench new audiences in the fandom. The hyper focused efforts on the latter is one of The Force Awakens’s few flaws—the dialogue meant to further plot is painfully explicit and a certain plot twist is repeated a criminal amount of times. For future reference, Mr. Abrams, your audience is a lot smarter than you believe, and as for those new to the galaxy—well, perhaps cutting excessive dialogue would force them to actually watch the originals or at least read up on Wookieepedia.
Now, the dialogue not meant for plot explanation—now, that’s incredibly enjoyable. Snappy one-liners and laughter-inducing sass enhance the impeccable chemistry between the fearless Daisy Ridley (Rey) and the funny John Boyega (Finn), and even with the menacing Adam Driver (Kylo Ren). With Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill back on board, the film’s twists and turns read like fan fiction—making long awaited, far-fetched head cannons cannon.
Yet, even daring plot decisions, beautiful scenery, laugh-out-louds moments, and heart-ripping spoilers are only sparklers next to the fireworks of nostalgia in the places you expect the least: the little moments. BB8 meeting R2D2, C-3PO’s one-sided conversations, the alien jazz bands, the return of the Millennium Falcon. A new generation of characters is fantastic, but true fans will be scouring for the little quirks in the epic space battle of good versus evil. And as a girl who was born the year Star Wars Episode I hit theaters, never did I dream I would be able to sit in a theater with fellow Star Wars fans clapping, cheering, whooping as “In a galaxy far, far away” appeared on screen. It’s a precious experience, knowing I was part of history that night, and ultimately it is that very feeling that will drive people back to the theaters for more.