After seeing The Force Awakens four times, and reading the novel (in progress), I think I’m ready to post my SPOILER-FREE review.

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J.J. Abrams showed off not only his film making talent, but also his marketing savvy and business acumen with his creative Star Trek reboot, and that same brilliance shines through in The Force Awakens. Abrams seems to hit all the right notes in this deliberate ode to A New Hope, and sets the stage for new stories with characters who are just as fun and interesting as the original cast. I was right at home from the first scene until the credits rolled, and I felt like a kid again reveling in every minute of the film.

It’s clear a lot was cut from the movie as several plot elements are somewhat taken for granted by the characters (the reason I’m reading the novelization). Also, I know that Abrams likes to leave his audience in the dark sometimes in order to ramp up for future reveals. Whether he’s good at that or not is a matter of debate, but I think for this movie it works. Of course we really can’t know that until the new trilogy is complete.

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I especially liked Kylo Ren’s character. He seemed a lot more human than Vader (and even Hayden’s Anakin Skywalker) and I actually felt sorry for him at times…..at least until the end. Then I wanted Luke Skywalker to appear and kick his ass (which didn’t happen, so I’m not spoiling anything).

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Rey was, of course, my favorite character, and Daisy Ridley did a phenomenal job of portraying her as both brave and vulnerable. Finn was awesome as the “brave-coward,” and all the characters evolve over the course of the story in ways that endear them to the audience.

So, was The Force Awakens the perfect movie? No. I think we could’ve used more backstory on the relationship between The New Republic and The First Order, and the role of Leia’s Resistance. I also think a certain moment in the end with R2 D2 could’ve been portrayed with more clarity. But my complaints really pale in comparison to just how well this movie was done. From the use of more traditional animatronic puppets to the deliberate similarity of some of the camera shots from A New Hope, it’s clear J.J. Abrams was very careful in crafting this skilled blending of the old and the new. I love the fact that the events in the original trilogy have passed into myth and legend—a perfect vehicle for introducing new young fans to the characters and universe—and though rated PG-13, this movie is suitable for the whole family.

With all the hype, I was really worried Episode Seven would disappoint, but it didn’t. In fact I did not want it to end, and wish Disney had adopted the Peter Jackson approach in making the new trilogy so that we could get one every year. Yeah, I know I sound like a spoiled brat, and I don’t care.

3.5 out of 4 stars for Star Wars The Force Awakens! It made me feel like a kid again!

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