“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” takes place about three decades after “Return Of The Jedi.”  A new threat to freedom and the Republic has risen: The First Order, led by Dark Side of The Force practitioner Snoke and his right hand man, Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver).  A weapon more powerful than the Death Star has been created that can destroy multiple planets at the same time from a great distance; and The First Order is on the verge of using this weapon to wipe out the Senate and the Republic, as well as the Resistance which is lead by Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fisher).  Luke Skywalker (played by Mark Hamill), last of the Jedi Knights, is nowhere to be found; and the hopes of the Resistance and the Republic lie within BB-8, a droid that hides a map that can lead the Resistance to the whereabouts of Hamill.

Unfortunately for the Resistance, BB-8’s owner has been captured by TFO, and the droid is forced to fend for itself on a desert planet.  It wanders the sand dunes until it is rescued by a young woman named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) who, with the help of John Boyega (playing the ex-Stormtrooper character of Finn), makes the dangerous journey to bring BB-8 and it’s precious cargo to the Resistance fighters.

Second place for my memorable moments of this movie is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the revelation of who Kylo Ren is: the son of Han Solo.

Top honors for my most memorable, movie moment of “The Force Awakens” is **SPOILER ALERT HERE** the scene when Harrison Ford (playing Han Solo) confronts Driver to bring his son home and into the Light Side of The Force.  Driver confesses to Ford that he is torn between the Light Side and the Dark Side, and he needs Ford’s help.  Driver presents his lightsaber to Ford, who holds it along with his son.  Driver suddenly activates his lightsaber, and the blade goes through Ford’s body, killing him.  What no bounty hunter, gangster, or Stormtrooper could do, the son of Han Solo has done.  I can’t say I was shocked as I kind of saw the set-up for it, but…it was hard to accept that the cocky pilot, hero, pirate and rebel is gone.

Other Episode VII movie moments that deserve honorable mentions are: 1) the introduction of the Millennium Falcon by Ridley, who calls the ship garbage; 2) a Stormtrooper wielding a baton that can parry a lightsaber; and 3) the appearance of a female Stormtrooper — no, not Captain Phasma, but a low-ranking Stormtrooper (the voice is clearly that of a woman).

Writer/director J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan have brought their talent and love to the third set of “Star Wars” movies, finally freeing “Star Wars” fans from the shadows of Lucas’ failures.  But before you start raising your Force FX Lightsabers into the air in triumph, “Empire Strikes Back” is still the best “Star Wars” movie so far; and “The Force Awakens” does stumble a few times.  Boyega’s Finn is too often the clown, ruining a great character (a soldier with PTSD seeking redemption and peace).  Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber (the one he lost when his father cut off his hand in “Empire…”) is in a chest owned by a character with small eyes and big glasses — what the hell!  Boyega’s lightsaber duel with Driver, and Ridley’s lightsaber duel with Driver produces so many unanswered questions that fans were forced to seek answers elsewhere (such as comic books or the novels) — hey, if I have to go online for answers, then the filmmakers didn’t do their jobs.  And some of the questions are still unanswered because some of the “answers” are just guesses.  Then you have rookie mistakes by Abrams in showing the face of Kylo Ren too early in the movie (which ruins the mystery of what is behind the mask) and an ending which belongs in a television series instead of the movies.  Oy!

Have we “Star Wars” fans been freed from the vile clutches of Lucas only to fall into hands of The First Order led by J.J. Abrams?  Difficult to see, always in motion is the future.

— M

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