At one point in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a much-older Han Solo (Harrison Ford, more engaged here than in a very long while) tells some new characters, “It’s true: the Force, the Jedi…it’s all true.” That sort of gets to the heart of what was initially appealing about these films for so many: the opening up of a fantasy world and making something you wanted to believe in seem like a living, breathing place. If it excels at anything in particular, The Force Awakens acts as a welcome return to the look and texture of Star Wars. It feels good to be back in a world of rough metal, dangling tubes and chipped paint, of burnished steel corridors built on sets instead of on hard drives, full of strange rubber-suit aliens and immediately iconic design. Director J.J. Abrams does a fine job of mimicking George Lucas’s formal simplicity and augments it with a number of modern flourishes like long, digitally-assisted dollies and spiraling CG shots.
Full of fan-service details and familiar characters upon which any present emotional resonance hangs.
Arriving under the unenviable weight of out-sized hopes and absurd anticipation, The Force Awakens deliberately treads very little that could be called new ground, and while franchise fans may not feel compelled to unleash an ecstatic cheer, they should at least be contented with a sigh of relief. Everyone else will have to make do with what the new entry offers: a lively, technically impeccable, and reasonably thoughtful fantasy adventure carefully calculated to stoke nostalgia. As a new (as much as it can be in this marketplace) story, it’s free of the (possibly unfairly) maligned prequels’ ponderous overdetermination – there’s mystery again. The film delivers mainly on a promise to be fun, although some new viewers will certainly be marked by this new iteration in much the same profound way as many have been by previous ones. It’s full of fan-service details and familiar characters upon which any present emotional resonance hangs. The new faces are not unexpectedly archetypes (with some welcome diversity in casting) ready-made for your pinned affections. The pulpy and often cheerfully dependent-on-coincidence plot is by-design a rhyme with that of the original 1977 installment. It’s a Star Wars movie made in 2015, almost exactly what you’d expect for better or worse, and a pretty good one.