The Force awakens in a new generation

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and BB-8 watch as a First Order fleet circles above the planet Takodana in pursuit of information on Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) whereabouts.

Faith Terry, Op/Ed Editor

For the past three years, filmmaker J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek,” “Super 8”) has been working under enormous pressure. In early 2013, Disney assigned Abrams the arduous task of directing the newest “Star Wars” film and helping the media giant earn back some of the $4 billion spent on purchasing the Lucasfilm brand.

And now, as “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens” is on track to become the most successful domestic release in history, Abrams can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Critics and fans across the world seem to be in agreement: the movie has risen to impossible expectations and effectively revived the “Star Wars” franchise.

‘The Force Awakens’ follows in the footsteps of ‘A New Hope,’ setting the stage for another successful trilogy.”

— Faith Terry

“The Force Awakens” centers around Rey (Daisy Ridley), a young scavenger living alone on the desert planet Jakku, trading spare parts for measly dinners. The life of this unassuming heroine changes forever when Finn (John Boyega), a former stormtrooper, crash-lands on the planet in search of BB-8, a very special droid that has conveniently found its way to Rey. BB-8 carries a piece of information vital to the Resistance, a group led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and their search to locate the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This quest is threatened by the First Order, an evil organization made up of the remnants of the old Empire.

From the first line of the opening title crawl, it’s clear that Abrams decided to follow an age-old formula for a successful Star Wars movie. Instead of trying to oversaturate the film with complex storylines and political subplots, Abrams keeps the action simple and concise, focusing more the creation of charming and likeable characters.

While the plot does borrow heavily from “A New Hope, Abrams and fellow writer Lawrence Kasdan (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi”) successfully developed a cast of new and refreshingly diverse characters to help flesh out the story.

And it’s the characters, villains and heroes alike, who truly make “The Force Awakens” a brilliant film. Each character, no matter their respective amount of screentime, overflows with true personality and heart.

Rey’s struggles with her past and discovery of her Force capabilities drive the movie’s plot. Finn provides both a level of comic relief and an inspiring story of bravery as he abandons his stormtrooper training to save the plucky X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Even the franchise’s newest villain, the masked and mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), manages to captivate audiences with a certain level of depth and complexity.

And while these characters are a great start, where the movie truly excels is in capturing the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. While Abrams definitely infused the movie with some of his own flashy and energetic directorial style, he made sure to balance the new with the old in nearly every aspect of the film. To ensure an authentic atmosphere, Abrams decided to shoot on film rather than digitally, and opted to use practical effects and shoot on location whenever possible. These efforts pay off immensely in the final product, as each scene feels real and engaging.

This mixture of old and new reaches into the lives of the characters when Rey and Finn meet the iconic Han Solo (Harrison Ford). As they interact, Han effectively passes the torch to this new generation of heroes.

“The Force Awakens” follows in the footsteps of “A New Hope,” setting the stage for another successful trilogy but leaving fans with just enough mystery and unanswered questions to keep them asking for more.

“The Force Awakens” is currently showing in theaters. The film will be available on Blu-Ray April 5.

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