In the end, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” suggests the work of a filmmaker who faced the exciting yet unenviable task of partially reassembling one of the most beloved ensembles in movie history, furthering their characters’ adventures in a meaningful fashion, and helping them pass the baton from one generation of action figures to the next — and emerged, in the end, with a compromise solution that, even when it’s not firing on all cylinders, has been put across with sufficient style, momentum, love and care to prove irresistible to any who have ever considered themselves fans. Risking heresy, it’s worth noting that Abrams actually did smarter, more inventive work on his 2009 reboot of “Star Trek,” no doubt in part because he was working with a less heavily guarded enterprise. “Star Wars,” at once a cultural juggernaut and a sacrosanct institution, resists any attempt to reimagine its landscape too aggressively or imaginatively; that may be to the detriment of this diverting first effort, but Abrams has more than stoked our anticipation for what his successors may have up their sleeves.
In the end, Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels like the work of a very capable student, one who has studied his subject so diligently and thoroughly that he knows what to do and what to avoid, is smart enough to have engaged one of the experts in the field, in this case Kasdan, to work on the blueprint, and to have ensured that another of the key contributor to the series’ success, John Williams, would return again after all the years.
Just as he did in Star Trek, Abrams, who also produced with Kathleen Kennedy and Bryan Burk, has given the next generation of the Star Wars saga the kind of send-off we could only hope for. Disney opens the film Friday at a multiplex not far far away from anyone on the planet.
Fans will be most relieved to know that there are no Ewoks, no Jar Jar Binks, no midi-chlorians, no “Yippee!” Abrams had the benefit of learning what didn’t work in Lucas’ prequels, and he’s gone in the opposite direction. He’s also set an interesting course for moving forward with this engaging cast playing new characters making their way through this beloved universe.