Note: The following does not include any major spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
2015 has saved its best for last.
It might be the most anticipated movie in your lifetime, and it’s most definitely the most anticipated movie of the year, but does Star Wars: The Force Awakens live up to these Death Star-sized expectations?
It does. And here are a few reasons why…
It’s like a “greatest hits” of Star Wars movies
Are there nerdy references? Of course there are nerdy references. Are there lines from other Star Wars movies reused in different ways? Of course there are! As much as The Force Awakens is very much the beginning of a new trilogy of movies, it also functions as kind of a reboot of the very first Star Wars movie.
Just like A New Hope, the film’s central premise is pinned to a hidden map that’s valuable to both the good guys and the bad ones. In the first movie this map helped our heroes defeat the Death Star. In The Force Awakens, this map holds the key to locating the galaxy’s last remaining Jedi.
Can you guess who that is?
BB-8 is your new everything
No, it’s not BB-8… although BB-8, like R2-D2 in the original movie, may have something to do with that map.
There’s a reason why BB-8 has already become this beloved character, and you’ll be happy to know the movie is a constant reminder that your love for this droid will only continue to grow from here. Unlike C-3PO and R2-D2, whose amusing frenemy shtick supplied much of the comic relief throughout the first six movies, BB-8 comes off as a strong, reliable, wiser-than-you’d-think puppy dog.
Your desire to "awww shucks" the droid will be at odds with your need to high-five the tiny baller at every turn.
And that's just it -- the key to BB-8's charm is in the boops and beeps, yes, but it's really all about the turns. BB-8 delivers heaps of emotion with a simple turn of the head. Its characters like this that simultaneously deliver more of what you already love so much about Star Wars to begin with while also teasing an evolving galaxy that still has a lot of surprises up its sleeves.
Daisy Ridley awakens
For example, the film’s biggest surprise is Daisy Ridley. Not only is Rey the most dynamic and compelling character to be introduced in a Star Wars movie since the original trio of Luke, Leia and Han, but this relatively unknown actress also steals the film away from its old-schoolers at every turn.
She’s daring and dangerous, and when she’s not upstaging her male counterparts (yes, even Han Solo), she’s fiercely defending her new friends and experiencing her own kind of awakening.
Does she know who she really is? And does she even want to know? Let's just say Rey deals with a lot of complex ideas and reveals throughout the film, and it's her journey that we're invested in most.
John Boyega's Finn is the film's most revealing character
You might be invested in Rey's journey most, but Finn offers up what might be the film's freshest storyline.
Since his story starts with him as a Stormtrooper, we learn a lot about the franchise's most famous unassuming bad guys. From the way they strategize to where they come from to what happens when they take their helmets off -- there's a lot of new territory to explore when it comes to Finn, with answers to questions you've probably had for decades.
Like how Stormtroopers are probably pretty messed up in the head.
Kylo Ren is unlike any Star Wars villain we’ve seen yet
And speaking of characters who could probably use a batch of free therapy sessions, the villainous Kylo Ren is way more than meets the eye. He’s got a little bit of a man crush on Darth Vader (hence the helmet and voice), but is he as strong and intimidating as Darth Vader?
He’s got power, but he doesn’t always know the best way to use it. He wants to be a triumphant leader, but he doesn’t really know what it takes. He’s all guts, no glory, and he’s fascinating to watch. Each moment he's on screen, another layer is peeled back. There's definitely a bit of an Anakin Skywalker vibe going on with Kylo Ren in terms of how volatile and unpredictable he is, but he utilizes his powers in ways no other Star Wars character has before.
And he's really pissed off at our heroes.
Han Solo and Chewbacca
Yup, you could say these two are on Kylo Ren’s sh** list.
How do you even write about the return of Han Solo without shedding some dude tears? I mean, Han Solo is the ultimate dude – one of the greatest dudes who ever lived on the silver screen -- and Harrison Ford comes off as if he’s having the most fun as an actor in years.
So much of what makes Han Solo who he is are his facial expressions. The way he smirks, the way he looks at people like they have a million screws loose upstairs. The grunts, the glances, the amusing shorthand he has with Chewbacca – it’s all in there. Ford seamlessly steps back into what’s arguably his most iconic character, and though it may feel like a “greatest hits” kind of performance, it’s so great to watch.
The lightsaber fights rock
Know what else is great to watch? The lightsaber fights.. J.J. Abrams has said the fights this time around are a little more raw and visceral, and that's exactly what the movie serves up. The saber duals are harsh and sort of amateur, in terms of style. These aren't master Jedis or Siths wielding those famous blades -- these are characters who fight with it like you and I would.
They fight with it in any way they know how.
And moreso than in any previous Star Wars movie, the lightsaber -- handled brilliantly in terms of how much time it's on screen, by the way -- feels like a physical piece of crazy laser-fire that's ridiculously destructive and, ya know, hurts when it strikes.
Plus, there aren't many of them. Kylo Ren has his, and the other belongs to another guy you might know...
So where in the galaxy is Luke Skywalker?
More like who in the galaxy is Luke Skywalker? Much has been said about Luke’s absence in all of the marketing materials, and there’s a very good reason for that… but we’ll let the movie explain.
That said, the entire story revolves around Luke, his actions post-Return of the Jedi and the consequences born from them. What consequences?
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18.