When Star Wars: A New Hope premiered, it brought a sense of adventure, fun, and amazing special effects to the world of science fiction.  Several decades (and franchise movies of varying quality) later, a new writer-director (J.J. Abrams) brings back that original sense of wonder -- and several plot and thematic elements from the original movies -- with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
After the events of Return of the Jedi, the galaxy has once again fallen into chaos and danger.  A military force called the First Order has risen to take the place of the Empire, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a Sith out to find the vanished Luke Skywalker.  A group called the Resistance has come about to oppose the First Order, and Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) has information on Skywalker's location, which he hides in the round droid BB-8.  But on the desert planet Jakka Dameron is captured and BB-8 is sent off into the desert.
Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) has a change of heart after seeing Kylo Ren massacre a town, so he helps Poe escape in the hopes of them getting far away from the First Order -- only to crash on the planet Jakka.  Meanwhile, scavenger and pilot Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found BB-8 and decides to help the little droid -- and then runs into Finn, who pretends to be part of the Resistance.  The trio wind up escaping in the Millennium Falcon -- which leads them running into Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).
We then have Finn as the reluctant hero, Rey discovering her connection to the Force, battles between the First Order and the Resistance, an evil weapon capable of destroying planets, issues between parents and their son, cameos from several characters (and ships) from the first movies, and of course Lightsaber battles.

The Force Awakens recaptures what make us love the Star Wars movies in the first place.  Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley are talented young blood to the movies, proving enjoyable heroes who will have a large part in this trilogy.  There are plenty of references to and items from the earlier movies, but they don't feel forced or out of place.  The action is exciting, there are several surprises along the way, and J.J. Abrams more than makes up for the flaws of the prequels.  The Force Awakens is an absolutely terrific adventure in space; and I look forward to the next two movies.

Overall grade: A
Reviewed by James Lynch

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