‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is best film since original trilogy

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NEW YORK — I have spent a good amount of my adult life trying to convince people that “Star Wars” is art. The seventh installment in the saga, “The Force Awakens,” will help make that argument.

To say the Force is with “The Force Awakens” would not only be a bad pun, but an understatement. The Disney film is full of the excitement, dread and joy that have been hallmarks of the franchise since the original film in 1977.

I have been a “Star Wars” fan since I was six years old, so trust me that I do not take it lightly when I say that the latest chapter is the best film in the series since the original trilogy.

Official poster for the movie Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Official poster for the movie Star Wars The Force Awakens.

Somehow, someway, this film lived up to its intergalactic hype.

I, and what I assume every other entertainment and media reporter in New York, saw the Disney film on Tuesday night. The event was shrouded in secrecy (I couldn’t even tell people when and where I was going to see it and my phone was confiscated during the show). It felt more like a secret meeting than a screening for the press.

It’s understandable why. “The Force Awakens” is full of big twists and turns that should be enjoyed as surprises in the theater. If you add in the buzz surrounding the film along with our spoiler obsessed culture, it makes sense why “Force Awakens” is more guarded than the plans to the Death Star.

I won’t ruin any of those surprises here. I will only say that the new cast of Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and even the little droid BB-8 are stellar — especially Ridley and Driver.

Driver’s Kylo Ren doesn’t reach the evil heights of Darth Vader (how could he compare to one of cinema’s greatest villains?), but Driver does a good job adding fear and anger to the film.

And Ridley is a true stand out. I can take solace knowing that the series is in good hands with her as one of the franchise’s new stars.

Fan favorites like C-3PO, R2-D2, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Han Solo also all fit into this new chapter surprisingly seamlessly. Especially Ford who at 73 years old still has the boyish charm he did over 30 years ago.

But the biggest credit for awakening the series belongs to director J.J. Abrams.

The best part of Abrams’ direction isn’t his camera angles or shot selection but rather his feel. He understands what “Star Wars” is.

Like the 1977 original, “The Force Awakens” has the gritty look of space that’s been in use, and a plot that starts already in progress rather than a boring origin story.

Also, not enough can be said about Abrams’ limit on computer-generated effects. This choice more than any other is what allows the new film to make the overindulgent special effects prequels a complete afterthought.

“The Force Awakens” isn’t a perfect film. It’s too self-referential, and if you’re not a fan you may find yourself enjoying the film, but wondering what all the fuss was about.

Some fans may even complain that it’s too jokey or not as deep as “Empire Strikes Back” — the consensus pick of fans for best in the series. Yet, in a pop culture world of full of “Empire Strikes Back” darkness and antiheroes, it was nice to see true-blue heroes having fun at the cineplex again.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is bound to be a film experience long remembered by fans and non-fans alike, but it’s just the beginning of what looks to be a promising new trilogy in a galaxy far, far away.

This fanboy is happy to report that it appears that “Star Wars” — like the Force itself — looks to be with us… always.