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Running Time:
2 hours, 16 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for sci-fi action violence

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This exhilarating, if highly derivative—sequel is beautiful to look at, brilliantly acted, breathlessly exciting, frequently amusing, yet delivering plenty of emotional impact that effectively sets the stage for myriad further adventures.

Additional Info:
Harrison Ford ... Han Solo
Mark Hamill ... Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher ... Princess Leia
Adam Driver ... Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley ... Rey
John Boyega ... Finn
Oscar Isaac ... Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong'o ... Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis ... Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson ... General Hux
Anthony Daniels ... C-3PO
Max von Sydow ... Lor San Tekka
Peter Mayhew ... Chewbacca

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
A young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley), spends her life scavenging and selling the stuff she digs out of the Tatooine-like desert of the planet Jakku to the local junkyard. She’s trying to hold out while awaiting the return of her family, but her already difficult life is made even more problematic when she finds a cute-as-a-button droid called BB-8. It turns out that the droid contains information critical to fate of the restored Republic and the Resistance fighters who are battling a fascistic Empire-like rebellion known as The First Order, which seeks to restore brutally authoritarian Dark Side rule. The data were placed in the droid by ace Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who escaped from the Order and its chief enforcer, a younger version of Darth Vader called Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), with the help of a renegade Storm Trooper who adopts the name Finn (John Boyega). Through a series of action-packed circumstances Finn teams up with Rey and BB-8 to get the critical information to the Resistance headquarters and help defeat the Order’s latest offensive, which naturally involves a massively destructive planet-destroying weapon.

Various characters from the early films are integrated into this recycled storyline—most notably Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Luke (Mark Hamill), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker)—some in major roles and others in what amount to cameos. And there are new figures, too—the Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who obviously craves imperial status; his nasty chief general, Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o), a wise old outlaw with a Yoda-esque vibe.

The sense of looking back extends to the appearance of the film as well. Eschewing the emphasis on computer-generated visuals that gave the second trilogy such a frantically unrealistic look, Director J.J. Abrams has opted for older techniques of the sort the young Geoge Lucas used to give the movie a tactile vividness, in terms of both locations and characters. That doesn’t mean, of course, that special effects are totally absent, but they're used sparingly, giving the picture—despite being set in another galaxy—a sense of humanity often lacking in big-budget action films nowadays. (And, of course, when the visual effects do take center stage, they’re of cutting-edge quality.) Abrams adds to the retro feel by utilizing the old-fashioned transitional swipes that Geoge Lucas employed to give his narrative the tone of a 1940s serial. John Williams returns to bathe the visuals in the same sort of rousing full-orchestra score, complete with its memorable themes.

As to the cast, it’s Harrison Ford who comes off most strikingly among the oldsters, not only because he gets the most screen time but because the script is peppered with the sort of amusingly juvenile banter at which Solo always excelled, and Ford can still pull it off with a snide smile while also managing the character’s more serious moments—of which there are quite a few here. And fans will rejoice at seeing R2D2 and C-3PO still bickering.

Of the newcomers, Daisy Ridley makes the strongest impression. She embodies the actively heroic mode well and John Boyega and Oscar Isaac are fine as the remaining members of the new triangle  J.J. Abrams has set up as a reflection of the old Luke-Leia-Han relationship, but it remains to be seen whether the trio can develop a similarly easy interaction in future episodes. It’s equally uncertain whether Adam Driver will ever duplicate the iconic evil of Darth Vader, whom Kylo Ren obviously idolizes.

And that sort of question applies to the entire project that Abrams and his team have undertaken. It’s impossible that The Force Awakens can recapture the singular magic that the original Star Wars did in the late seventies. Nor does it take the series in new directions. It is essentially a clone of the original trilogy; an inventively engineered and highly entertaining one, to be sure, but basically a retread that effectively sets the stage for the myriad further adventures that are obviously being planned. J.J. Abrams has proved that you can go home again, but future installments will require some new twists to maintain the explosion of interest that will undoubtedly greet this much-ballyhooed—and exhilarating, if highly derivative—sequel.

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