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IN SHORT: Didn't make us cheer. [Rated PG-13. 136 minutes]
We write as one who has been on the line to see Star Wars since Day One, back in the 1970s. The film students at Northwestern University got to see Star Wars before everyone else. The Radio-Television majors -- same school as the Film students, but not as well connected, were on line for the second, 2 p.m. screening -- we had classes at noon. Coming out of that first, noon screening were all the professors who weren't teaching at noon. The world changed that day, for us. For anyone old enough to remember that the original of Star Wars was really difficult to find in a local theater, hang it up. Let your children bring their children to see Episode VII (hidden in the now classic opening format) and retire knowing that Episodes I through III were just a bad dream and that Episodes IV through VI are being rehashed with love and care. Star Wars The Force Awakens is created for those who have very little knowledge of the earlier films. Yours Cranky chooses our words very carefully, and moves on . .. .
30 years later, we have Episode VII. . .We have sworn not to Spoil Anything and we will do that. Here is what you get:
The Empire has been replaced by an equally evil entity called the First Order. They are countered by The Resistance, led by one General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Yes, she is no longer a Princess -- we guess you can't be a princess when your planet was destroyed three movies earlier. Kids, dig out Episode Four . . ..
As this story begins, ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a hunted member of the Resistance, hides what is (essentially) a flash-drive inside a droid called BB-8. On said drive is the location of the legendary hero Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who, decades ago, abandoned The Force and fled civilization for a life in exile. His location is known only to the droid R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) who shut down when Skywalker fled. If Skywalker can be found, perhaps he can be convinced to return and save the universe from the evil, First Order.
Two things: First, If it feels like you've watched a similar situation ("You're our only hope") in an earlier movie, just go with it . . You're going to get that feeling a lot of times before the Force actually awakens, and the big screen explodes in its last hour. Second, we use the term "legendary" in regards to Skywalker because, once he disappeared, no one has publicly used The Force and none of the younger generation believes the stories of the Empire are anything but myth. Back to what we can tell you of the new stuff . . .
Skywalker once had a student called Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He fell to the Dark Side and is now servant to the Supreme Leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis). Kylo Ren's parents, prominent members of The Resistance, believe that their son still has enough Good Side within him that he can be brought back from the Dark Side. The search for the boy falls to Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his pal Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). Solo, for those new to this planet, is married to the aforementioned General Organa, though they have not had a love and kisses relationship for a very long time.
Countering the stories of the characters you know from the original trilogy is a new one; Stormtrooper FN-2187 (John Boyega). who cannot perform the unimaginable Evil orders that other Stormtroopers can. He turns from the Dark Side and takes as his new name "Finn," teaming with a scavenger called Rey (Daisy Ridley) and a BB-8 model droid she has, essentially, rescued from whatever hell droids fall into once their masters have died.The aforementioned newbies' adventures will enabe them to cross paths with Han and Chewie, as well as an eyeball obsessed "pirate" called Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyongo) and an admiral named Ackbar (Tim Rose).
Yes, that Admiral Ackbar. We can't hint at any more than that.
If you've been eyeballs deep in the franchise since before it was a franchise; since before George Lucas promised (us) Nine Movies in a Truly Epic Saga, you'll know that you've seen this film before. The characters have changed a little but he story arc is almost exactly the same .The biggest of those repeated plot points, the one surprise spilled on the Internet over a year ago, is one which we truly hope you never saw on any Star Wars blog or on TMZ, Even if you do know, it will still rip your heart out.
It doesn't matter. Star Wars is Star Wars and, despite everything you can glean from the character descriptions above, there are enough other stories and some comedic elements at work in this film to almost distract you.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Star Wars Episode VII, he would have paid . . .
We know we are right. Instead of being a real, kick-ass movie in and of itself, Star Wars The Force Awakens is merely the first part of three. That is a big problem. All the fanboys, drooling after gaining entrance to the very first New York screening, merely applauded when all was done. Once upon a time, in a city far, far away, they would have cheered.
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