With six films already in the series, and four since any of the good ones, J.J. Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt had to make The Force Awakens a crowd-pleasing hit. To ensure it, they've copied the arc of the original Star Wars. Once again, we open in medias res with a scroll of text, a pan down to the stars, and a beauty shot of a giant destroyer. And once again, we have the Dark Side hunting a droid carrying a hidden message, the orphaned desert scavenger who blunders into protecting it, and that same old smuggler and his bipedal dog who inadvertently sign on as escorts, even though Harrison Ford can barely be bothered to look nervous in a firefight.
Abrams has also added two fantastic characters, played by two 23-year-old actors who are clearly thrilled to be aboard. First is the athletic, resourceful Rey (Daisy Ridley, already a movie star in her very first film). Just as charismatic is John Boyega as Finn, a former stormtrooper fobbing himself off as a resistance fighter. Seven films into the saga, this is the only time we’re allowed to empathize with a grunt. The emotion doesn't last long. Soon, we’re rooting for Finn and his new friends to pew-pew-die his former colleagues.
Our heroes are pursued by yet another black-helmeted villain (Adam Driver). Can the Rebels -- er, now they’re called the Resistance -- save the day in what literally plays like just one long day zipped through at light-speed without bathroom breaks? If not, look out, universe! Everything is the same, only bigger. Still, its rusticity is welcome after those overly shiny prequels.