When I made my way up to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA on December 17, I expected to see lines wrapped around the entire level. This was, after all, the moment that I and countless others had been waiting for. STAR WARS was finally here. To my surprise, the lines weren’t all that long. There were folks sporting Yoda ears, rocking Han Solo jackets, and there were plenty of Princess Leia hairdos, but, I was surprised at how few people were there. It was 6:15pm, and the show started at 7:00. Where was everyone?!

Star_Wars_Episode_VII_The_Force_AwakensWell, as it turns out, the people I had expected to see were already in the theater. What I was looking at was the line that had begun to form for the 9:00pm show. After months of waiting, what would a few more hours matter if it ensured you a prime seat at the movie event of the year?Opening night of STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS was every bit the spectacle that I had hoped it would be. This was more than just a movie, it was an event. Despite the the air of electric excitement, there was a tangible sense of fear. Would the quality of the new production be on par with the legendary original series? Or, would audiences be left with the hollow feeling they felt when they walked out of the theater at the conclusion of THE PHANTOM MENACE? With director JJ Abrams at the helm, and original cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill back on board, there was certainly reason to believe that the franchise would find its footing once again.

When the showtime finally arrived, the screen went black, the STAR WARS emblem blazed across the screen and the familiar
opening notes of John Williams iconic score blasted throughout the cinema. At this point, the capacity crowd erupted in rapturous applause. This, as I would soon learn, wasn’t to be the last time that the audience let loose exclamations of unadulterated joy.

It seemed impossible for THE FORCE AWAKENS to live up to its own unrelenting hype, but in the end, it certainly did. From the first scene to the last, Abrams’ film is every bit as exciting, entertaining, and gratifying as any STAR WARS fan could ever hope it would be. The opening sequence introduces us to a band of ruthless storm troopers, lead by the masked Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), one of the leaders of the ruthless First Order.. They are in search of a map that will lead them to the last remaining Jedi, Luke Skywalker. The map had been placed in the hands of Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) a resistance fighter who, in turn, entrusts the invaluable map to his droid BB-8. Poe is captured and taken prisoner, while BB-8 escapes undetected.star-wars-bb-8-force-awakens

Poe puts forth his best efforts in his attempts to keep the map’s location a secret, but Ren uses the dark-side of the Force to extrapolate the information he needs. Dameron is to be imprisoned within the massive ship, never to see the light of day again. Miraculously, he crosses paths of rogue Storm Trooper FN-2187 (John Boyega) who wants to escape his life of murderous servitude. Together, they make a daring escape aboard a TIE fighter ship. Poe explains that he needs to recover his missing droid, because the little bot holds the key to the galaxy’s salvation. After effectively putting some distance between themselves and their persuants, they are eventually shot down and crash on the planet of Jakku. The former Storm Trooper, now known as Finn, awakens to watch his escape vehicle sink into the sand. Unable to find his new friend, he assumes the worst.ReyTFA

Finn makes his way to a trading post, where he meets a young woman scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her newly acquired droid. Finn realizes that the droid is the same one that Poe had been looking for, and convinces Ray that they need to escape before the First Order finds them. Unfortunately for them, their whereabouts have already been discovered, and the chase begins.

All of these events take place within the first fifteen minutes of the film, and this is where the plot synopsis ends. Prior to its release, details about the production were sparse, something that is very rare in the modern spoiler-heavy entertainment world. I, like the majority of others watching on opening night, had no idea what was going to unfold, and how Ford, Fisher, and Hamill would fit in to the picture. These unfolding discoveries aided heavily in the resounding success of THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I refuse to be the one who spills any more of the beans.

The reason this incarnation of STAR WARS works so well isn’t due to some glorious sense of nostalgic gratification. While it is true that it was wonderful to see the original cast members back in action, it was even more satisfying to see them do well. Unlike the clunky dialogue and hollow performances seen in PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK KyloRenOF THE CLONES, and REVENGE OF THE SITH, the cast in THE FORCE AWAKENS delivered their lines and executed their actions with a genuine sense of passion and precision. Newcomers Ridley and Boygea were up to the monumental task of sharing the screen with some of the most recognizable characters in the history of film, and were welcome additions to this brand new STAR WARS cannon. It certainly didn’t hurt that the story was intense and interesting, allowing the production to become an extension of the original series. It serves as the progression of a saga that has captivated audiences for decades, and continues to win over new fans with each passing day. With his film, Abrams has once again reminded why they fell in love with these characters and their stories in the first place. The special effects are brilliant, the action is fast-paced and electrifying, and most importantly, watching the flick provides over two hours of sheer entertainment. This production is a prime example of why we love going to the movies; escapism at its best. It is a prime example of what big-budget blockbusters should be, and I’m hoping this is just the magnificent first glimpse into the future wonderment that is to come.


A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to see this month’s film.

Brian Miller