(US - 2015)
Directed by J.J. Abrams. Written by Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams and Michael Arndt. Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Gwendoline Christie, Joonas Suotamo, Simon Pegg, Pip Torrens, Kiran Shah, Greg Grunberg, Kenny Baker, Warwick Davis, Ken Leung, Iko Uwais, Harriet Walter, Thomas Brodie-Sangster. (PG-13, 135 mins)
Picking up the STAR WARS saga a decade after the mixed-bag prequel trilogy, fan expectations were high with franchise overlord George Lucas removing himself from the equation and Episode VII being handed to polarizing director and lens flare enthusiast J.J. Abrams. Abrams himself is coming off a career nadir with the abysmal STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS, a film that everyone loved until they actually saw it. Taking place 30 or so years after the events of RETURN OF THE JEDI, STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS brings together two protagonists--lone warrior/scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), from the desert planet Jakku, and morally-conflicted Stormtrooper FN-2187, or "Finn" (ATTACK THE BLOCK's John Boyega)--and a rolling droid called BB-8, who has an important piece of a map in his possession, placed there by Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (EX MACHINA's Oscar Isaac). The Empire may have fallen after the destruction of the second Death Star, but The First Order has risen in its place, overseen by the nefarious, masked Kylo Ren (GIRLS' Adam Driver) and ambitious General Hux (Isaac's EX MACHINA co-star Domnhall Gleeson, channeling Peter Cushing's Grand Moff Tarkin), who work at the behest of Supreme Leader Snoke (motion-captured Andy Serkis). The map contains the key to the whereabouts of the long-missing Luke Skywalker, and with Kylo Ren's Stormtroopers in pursuit, Rey, Finn, and BB-8 commandeer a junked Millennium Falcon and cross paths with none other than Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew in some closeups, but played mostly by stuntman Joonas Suotamo due to 71-year-old Mayhew's disabling knee issues), who are surprised to find their old ship. As the hunt for BB-8 intensifies, the heroes end up joining the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who's desperately searching for the whereabouts of her lost brother, Luke.
Chewie...we're home!"). The same goes for the eventual appearances of Fisher's Leia (she and Han still harboring feelings for one another, and both feeling a sense of responsibility for the rise of The First Order), Anthony Daniels' C-3PO, and an offline R2-D2 (81-year-old Kenny Baker now credited as "R2-D2 Consultant"), who comes back to life late in the film to provide an important piece of the puzzle involving Luke's location. Mark Hamill returns as Luke--obviously to help set up what must be a larger role in Episode VIII--but don't be fooled by his second billing: there are Hitchcock cameos that last longer than Hamill's appearance in THE FORCE AWAKENS.