Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Posted on December 16, 2015 at 3:01 am

Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Scene in a bar
Violence/ Scariness: Extensive sci-fi action-style violence with guns and explosions and many characters injured and killed, sad death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: December 16, 2015
Date Released to DVD: March 27, 2016 ASIN: B018FK66TU
Copyright Disney 2015
Copyright Disney 2015

The force is strong in this thrilling new chapter in the story set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Fans will get goosebumps right from the start as the familiar logo and musical theme are followed by a scrolling summary to bring us up to date — without a single mention of a tariff or bureaucratic squabbling. Instead, it has words of near-incantatory power: Luke is missing. Leia is a General. An old ally has provided a clue to Luke’s whereabouts and the best pilot of the rebel forces has been sent to retrieve it.

That pilot is the irresistibly dashing Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, who finally seems on the brink of the superstardom he has long deserved). Like Leia in “A New Hope,” he stashes the information in a droid, the adorable B-88, and then he is captured by stormtroopers representing the dark side of the force.  Now called First Order, it is a group that has risen from the ashes of the Empire and threatens to take over again. And we know they’re evil because they mostly have plummy British accents and when they give speeches they dress like they’re appearing in a Leni Riefenstahl recruiting video.

Stormtroopers are indistinguishable in their white armor and helmets, but in the attack on a civilian village one stands out. He seems dazed and disoriented. He shows compassion for a downed member of his battalion.  After returning to the ship, he is ordered to reprogramming to make sure he will never again fail to carry out an order to kill and destroy.  He decides to run away. He does not know how to fly, but there is a prisoner who happens to be the best pilot of the rebel forces, our new friend Poe.  “Why are you helping me?” Poe asks with understandable suspicion.  “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Our Poe is not fooled.  “You need a pilot,” he wisely responds.

Whatever. They both want to get the heck out of there, and that is good enough for the moment. Plus, the defecting stormtrooper speaks with an American accent (even though he is played by British actor John Boyega), so he must be okay.

Meanwhile, a scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley, yes she has an English accent but is so obviously honorable and kick-ass great that it just sounds elegant, not evil) encounters B-88. And some old friends from the original trilogy show up for call-outs, tributes, and variations on beloved memories.

Co-writer/director J.J. Abrams has a deep understanding and respect for the original characters and themes going back to the very first episode, now chronologically chapter IV and retitled “A New Hope.” He co-wrote this film with Lawrence Kasdan, the screenwriter of Chapter V: “The Empire Strikes Back,” generally considered the strongest in the series.  They seamlessly bring the story forward with new characters who are vital and engaging. The special effects and mechanics are superbly designed and the action is brilliantly staged.

I wish I could tell you more but I can’t spoil the wonderful surprises, so just let me just say that this is the “Star Wars” you’ve been looking for. Be sure to check out the deleted scenes and other extras on the splendid DVD/Blu-Ray

Parents should know that this movie has extensive sci-fi peril and violence with many characters injured and killed and a very sad death. There are issues of totalitarianism, loss, and betrayal.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Finn have a name? How are Ren and Hux different? Who do you think Rey’s parents are?

If you like this, try: the original “Star Wars” trilogy

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3D Action/Adventure DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Fantasy Science-Fiction Series/Sequel
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