Well it starts out well.

From the opening fanfare to the text scrawl to the first scenes of stormtroopers and blasters and droids, Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels like a true homecoming, a welcome return to the world George Lucas created four decades ago.

But as the movie goes on, it becomes obvious that this is not a fresh, new continuation of the Star Wars saga; it’s essentially a remake of the original 1977 Star Wars in almost every plot aspect. It’s almost as if director/co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams was so worried about audiences’ reactions to it, that he decided to play it safe and just tell the same story.

And that’s disappointing.

Remember in the original film, when a key player in the rebel alliance hid vital files in a droid? Remember when the Empire spent the better part of the movie chasing down said droid, killing innocent people in the process? And when the Empire built a space station capable of blowing up an entire planet? And when the heroes make a quick detour into a seedy, local watering hole? And when a short, wise alien provided guidance about The Force? And when ties to the enemy tested the bonds of family? It’s all there… again. (And there’s plenty more, but in the interest of not offering any spoilers, I’ll stop.)

The more The Force Awakens goes on, the more plotlines from the original trilogy show up, to the point where, eventually, a little bit of eye-rolling begins.

On one hand, it’s certainly understandable. After all the (justified) flak the prequel trilogy drew, Abrams wanted to return the franchise to its roots. But at the same time there’s a difference between harkening back to capture the feel of something and just re-spinning an identical yarn. And I couldn’t shake the thought that I was watching a remake– the movie that Lucas himself may have originally wanted to do, had the technology existed in the mid 70s.

To be sure, the script does have its moments. Abrams (along with The Empire Strikes Back scribe Lawrence Kasdan and Toy Story writer Michael Arndt) inserted plenty of genuine comedy on the way, along with some fairly startling twists and revelations. The finished product is truly a bona fide joyride; the action is spectacular, the lightsaber duels are as fun as ever, and the acting and dialogue are vastly improved. (No more whining about going into Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!) And, hey, there were plenty of fans bouncing off the walls with excitement on the way out of the theater.


I’ll even freely and honestly admit that The Force Awakens, in and of itself, is one of the most entertaining and well-crafted movies of the year. In the Star Wars world, it’s light years ahead of the prequel trilogy.

And if it had come out before the original 1977 film, it may well be the best of the franchise.

But it didn’t.

And so it isn’t.


3/5 stars