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REVIEW - The Force has a familiar look

By Mel Rothenburger
January 2, 2016 10:36 A.M.
Rey, Finn and BB-8 make a run for it in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. (Disney Studios)

And so the debate begins. Is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the best yet, or is it just a pale imitation of what has come before?

It’s neither, though there’s much heritage reflected in this latest in the never-ending series inspired by the George Lucas original that hit the screen way back in 1977.

Harrison Ford’s return as the eternally frustrated and wise-cracking Han Solo, along with his lifelong buddy Chewbacca, is a delight. Carrie Fisher is back as Princess — now General — Leia, too. Both show their age but they provide the continuity necessary to connect us to the past of this wonderful motion-picture lineage.

And, in case you were wondering, good old R2-D2 and C-P3O return, though a likable droid named BB-8 has the starring robot role.

The premise works — where’s Luke Skywalker when we need him to save the Resistance from the newest galactic threat, The First Order? A good question, and one without an answer until the last minute of the movie when Mark Hamill makes a reprise cameo.

The special effects have developed a millennia beyond what they were in the first few installments, but sadly the plot descends into a by-now trite replay of a story that has played out before — an evil force (you remember the Galactic Empire, the Sith, and so on) now in the form of the First Order led by a nasty Supreme Leader Snoke wants to destroy the coalition and take over the universe. Only the Resistance with the help of Solo and some new characters like a scavenger named Rey, and a turncoat Storm Trooper (Finn, played by John Boyega) can save it.

Strangely, the X-wing and Tie fighter spacecraft with which the two sides wage this new war haven’t changed at all since the battle for the universe began in the first episodes almost 40 years ago. Even the Canadian Air Force has improved its weaponry since then.

And the bad guys are once again ensconced in a man-made planet that must be attacked by the forces of good with their heroic pilots. A Death Star by any other name.

In the end, everything is predictably blown up real good, but there are enough hints— including Hamill’s brief appearance just before the closing credits — to suggest the saga will continue soon. In fact, Disney is said to already be planning several more episodes. Which is a good thing, because maybe then we can figure out in this overly complex cast of characters why it was necessary for the son (Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver) of Han and Leia to be written as a bad boy imitation of the deceased Darth Vader, and why Rey (Daisy Ridley) has jedi powers, and….

Well, despite its legion of shortcomings and question marks, The Force Awakens is worth the price of admission for nostalgia and to keep up with the latest chapter in the somewhat repetitious story line.


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