In order to assure a spoiler-free review, I had planned to make this one only five words long.

“I enjoyed watching this film.”

(We had different five-word review ready, too.)

It is not a surprise that Darth Vader has a grandchild. That Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew have much larger roles than some obligatory “original-cast cameo” was a delightful surprise. You do not have to re-watch the prequels or look up hundreds hours of supplementary material to understand this film.

the-force-awakens-han-posterIf you were a fan of the original three movies, you will enjoy this one. The new characters are not terribly deep, but they develop over the course of the film and show promise. The new “Dark Lord of the Sith” (Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver) expertly shows us the concept of anger leading to the dark side. In contrast to the unlikeable muppet in Revenge of the Sith, Kylo lets go of his anger in an obvious and dramatic fashion. Similarly, the power of the force is demonstrated such that it is evident why legions of soldiers fall in line behind those who wield it.

Like A New Hope, this is a hero’s journey. Or rather, it is a heroine’s journey. One thing that struck me was the overt way in which more female characters appear. J. J. Abrams seems to be putting women in the corners of every shot he can manage. Two X-Wing pilots walk by long enough to show their faces and long hair; the chrome-plated stormtrooper captain has a female voice; but most prominently, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, is the central hero.

Princess Leia Organa has always been a strong female character and good role model, but the films used her as the damsel in distress (twice). This story uses Rey differently. She is the one who goes about enacting the rescues and generally being the main character of this film. General Princess Leia does make a strong showing, taking over for Mon Mothma as leader of the Republic’s Military.


It is not just female characters. The Force Awakens demonstrates diversity across the board. We see aliens of several types in the cockpits of fighters. FN-2138 (Finn), played by John Boyega, shows a bad guy, wearing white, who is redeemed and removes his helmet, revealing a black man. (This awkward sentence brought to you to parody a ridiculous online statement about racist overtones of Star Wars.)

The Force Awakens is a modern film. It uses more techno-babble than the previous ones, and some characters use slang in a way that felt out of sync with the franchise. It shows its roots, though, with several Easter egg props for sharp-eyed fans and space physics that are unrealistic for the sake of a compelling story.

As in A New Hope, we were not left with a cliffhanger, but the door is definitely open for more. For that, at least, we are happy.