Thirty-two years after that joyous celebration on Endor, supposedly bringing peace and prosperity to the galaxy with the death of Emperor Palpatine, and the destruction of the Deathstar, and as extra special icing on the cake, turning Darth Vader to the Light side of the Force, the old gang has finally returned in episode 7, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They’re all a very welcome relief for franchise fans, many of whom were sorely disap-pointed with episodes 1,2, and 3. For all those who love Luke, Han, Leia and the rest, it has definitely been too long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
John Williams’ iconic opening theme floods our ears once again, boosting your senses as the familiar title crawl updates us on what has happened thus far. It’s been a long time. Jedi Master Luke has mysteriously vanished, the Galactic Empire has been re-organized into a seemingly more ruthless regime dubbed “The First Order”, and a greater, more powerful space sta-tion called “Starkiller”( an interesting name for Star Wars geeks) has now replaced the old Deathstar.
Apparently, Luke is still a coveted item, with the First Order in relent-less pursuit of him. The only clue to his whereabouts are contained in a small droid (BB-8). Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader wannabe and leader of First Order’s armed forces of Storm Troopers, has no idea that BB-8 has the information he wants. Only what planet it could be on. He launches a devestating assault on the planet Jakku and captures the only Rebel pilot who could know. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). Doesn’t this sound like something we’ve seen before?
New comer Daisy Ridley comes on strong as the scavenger Rey, a Jakku resident, dodging Tie Fighter’s deadly torpedoes during a brutal airstrike. She reluctantly teams up with BB-8 beforehand, and John Boyega’s Finn, a First Order Stormtrooper who has seen the error of his ways. To escape the mayhem, all three scurry on board, and take off with, a very familiar looking ship that has apparently made it’s rounds across the galaxy. With Rey piloting while Finn fends off their attackers in yet another familiar scene, it will surely bring back memories of a certain smuggler and a farm boy who were doing the same thing in their younger days fighting off the Galactic Empire.
Returning to our galaxy far, far away, much to our great relief, are Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill whose lives were forever trans-formed by George Lucas’ original vision of 1977. They’re all slightly older of course, but still exhibit that determination to combat the dark side, and bring true order to the galaxy. While Ford’s Solo is still the wise cracking scoundrel he always was, Leia has the new title of General rather than prin-cess.
New and interesting bad guys to inflict maximum suffering to our he-roes has always been a must for Star Wars. Inheriting the shadowy legacy of Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine are Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, and the incredibly talented Andy Serkis as the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke. All three are as classically evil as one can get, notably Gleeson; that boyish innocence so apparent in films like Ex Machina and Dredd , are completely shrouded by his character’s allegiance to the First Order.
As for novel supporting allies, BB-8 and Lupito Nyong o’s Maz Kanata are given ample screen time to showcase their merits. The former is an original creation from Abrams himself, starting out as a napkin sketch. Like R2, his language is all beeps and whistles yet you’ll see that his spherical body makes him considerably more agile, on the ground or in the air. 12 Years A Slave alum Nyong o holds her own as an old friend of Solo, with an emotional turn that compensates for the apparent transience.
Director J.J. Abrams completely rebooted Star Trek by cleverly changing the time line through time travel. However, with Star Wars, he knew that method would simply not work, enraging fans. Abrams wisely decided to continue the story from Return of the Jedi. He was initially reluctant to take on such a formidable task, since he was already dealing with another space adventure. But it’s obvious that he was the right man for the job. Working with Star Wars vets like writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi), Oscar winning production designer, Rick Carter, and of course, the incomparable composer John Williams, Abrams has successfully followed through with what fans have been anxiously waiting for. He has rebooted another iconic franchise for a new generation of fans.