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Logline: More than three decades since the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat rises.

Review: Like many Star Wars fans, I was disappointed by the prequels.  When I first heard that Disney had bought the rights to Star Wars and was going to make more films, I was skeptical.  When I heard the new Star Wars film was going to be a sequel to Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983) and would feature original cast members Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher, I became interested.  When I saw the trailer for the film, I became downright excited.  Having seen it in theaters last night, I am happy to report that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is everything I had hoped for and is infinitely better than the prequels.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, The Force Awakens emulates the look and feel of the original trilogy and has all of the elements that made those films so endearing.  The use of practical special effects and practical creatures with as little CGI as possible is refreshing and helps to achieve the film’s aesthetic.

The story is nothing new.  In fact, The Force Awakens is a retread of Episode IV: A New Hope (1977) in many ways but I am fine with that.  There are many nods to the original trilogy that serve as nice reminders of why we fell in love with Star Wars in the first place.  The Force Awakens is well-written with little exposition and has believable dialogue.  The new characters are all compelling.  The fact that this new cast is led by a female and an African American is great and both Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are excellent in their respective roles.  On the Dark Side, Adam Driver is wonderful as usual.  Seeing the original cast members together again was pure joy and it did not seem as if they were just shoehorned into the plot.

The action scenes are terrific and the film never lets up.  It is clear that Abrams and everyone involved with this production has a deep reverence for the original films.  The Force Awakens is a briskly paced space adventure designed to appeal to the masses and I am not complaining.  This is the Star Wars film we have been waiting decades to see.  The ending left me excited for the next installment.  Disney, you win.  I declare: Star Wars is back!

Rating (out of ****): ***1/2