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Star Wars: The Force Awakens Lives Up To The Hype—And Here Are 7 Reasons Why

Have I got good news for you, young Padawan: J.J. Abrams’ infinitely anticipated The Force Awakens is the Star Wars episode we’ve waited 32 years for, with all the adventure, wonder, humour, and even romance that made the original trilogy so memorable.

No stranger to quality franchise reboots (Star Trek) and unapologetic homages (Super 8), Abrams successfully pulls off the double duty task of checking off all his fan service boxes and kick-starting a fresh chapter in the Star Wars canon for a new generation of filmgoers. So keep your Jar Jar Abrams jokes to yourself!

There’s plenty of juicy narrative ground we could cover here, but there will be a heap of opportunities in the coming weeks to dissect every plot point once people have actually watched the film. This is definitely one of those “the less you know, the better” life experiences, and seeing a proper Star Wars movie for the first time on the big screen is still a novelty. Enjoy it while it lasts, because it looks as though this saga is going to get the Marvel Cinematic Universe treatment, with sequels and spin-offs already underway.

With that in mind, here are seven (out of way more) reasons The Force Awakens will make the tiny hairs on the back of your neck stand up from the moment John Williams’ iconic opening crawl score blasts into your head until the last end credit has rolled.

1. New Heroes

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As Rey and Finn, relative unknowns Daisy Ridley and John Boyega pump new blood into the series as two star-crossed heroes who meet cute on the sandy desert planet Jakku and embark on a race across the galaxy to deliver something very important to the Resistance. Along for the ride is the most adorable non-CGI droid in the galaxy, BB-8. These leads (droid included) make for three tremendously charismatic protagonists that give Han, Luke, and Leia a run for their money. Also worth of a mention is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a star pilot of the Resistance who’s responsible for pretty much everything that happens in the film, and Maz Kanata (Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o, who’s unrecognizable), a pint-sized ally who runs a watering hole that evokes Mos Eisley’s Cantina from A New Hope.

2. Old Friends

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Based on the trailers everyone in this galaxy has seen, we all knew Han Solo and his Wookiee pal would appear in the new film, but their presence is far more than a mere cameo—the beloved space smugglers play a pivotal role in this adventure, and it’s a delight to see them both settling right back in to their respective roles. Harrison Ford is as charming as ever as the aging and still wisecracking Han, and Chewbacca is equally endearing (and sassy). By now, it’s not much of a spoiler to confirm Leia and Luke play a significant role in The Force Awakens, but let’s just leave it at that for now. Also, they’re not the only retro figures you’ll get reacquainted with—gotta leave you with some element of casting surprise.

3. The Dark Side

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You can’t have a proper Star Wars movie without some striking villains. Even the Phantom Menace remains a somewhat tolerable experience thanks to Darth Maul (I swear that’s the only prequel reference you’re going to read here). The First Order has risen from the space ashes of the Evil Empire, and with it comes Domnhall Gleeson’s General Hux, who would look right at home sporting an S.S. uniform in an old WWII film, and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, an unhinged bad boy with a sinister mask and an obstructed voice that clearly recalls Darth Vader. In the place of Emperor Palpatine, there’s an even more powerful Supreme Leader (Andy Serkis, doing his motion-capture thing) behind all this intergalactic turmoil. And while she doesn’t get too much screen time, Gwendoline Christie’s Stormtrooper commander Captain Phasma gets a couple choice moments. Who knows, maybe she’ll be rewarded with a spin-off.

4. The Human Side

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One of the most impressive things about The Force Awakens is how Abrams injects levity into some of the film’s most chaotic moments. An early, rather explosive action sequence sees Rey and Finn tossing quips at each other while evading an onslaught of TIE Fighters. This kind of schoolyard crush banter is a nice throwback to Han and Leia’s. Fortunately, the latter two are also on hand to reprise their remarkable dynamic. Just as much as these old and new characters will make you laugh, they’ll also tug at your heartstrings at various crucial moments throughout the film. In case I haven’t hammered it in enough, this is quite a rollicking roller-coaster ride.

5. An Epic Journey

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While The Force Awakens takes many cues from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps the most significant thing it resurrects from the original trilogy is characters worth rooting for. Daisy Miller’s Rey is definitely the Luke Skywalker of this saga, and I couldn’t be happier. A feisty vulture on a junkyard planet, her path to unlocking the power she doesn’t yet know she possesses is thrilling in the same way Luke’s was—arguably more so. Her pleasantly straightforward adventure earns additional bonus points for wasting no time lulling us to sleep with endless exposition regarding Midi-chlorians.

6. Explosive Action

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More than he did with Star Trek, Abrams manages to balance Star Wars’ digital flourishes with impressive practical effects. For the most part, everything looks seamless, and the upshot of the two disciplines suits the fantastical, yet down to Earth, vibe of the series. Unlike most effects-heavy blockbusters, The Force Awakens (shot on 35mm film!) is less preoccupied with showcasing its technical feats and more focused on the characters and scenarios that push the story forward. That’s not to say it isn’t brimming with wowee zowee effects, but that’s rarely the focal point—a classy move that distinguishes this from your average superhero flick. And fear not, there’s also a totally bitchin’ lightsaber duel that ranks among the best.

7. High Stakes

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This is a tricky thing to address without going into specific details that will most certainly tarnish your first viewing. Let’s just say major sh*t goes down in the film’s third act that significantly affects the franchise at large. As tearful as some of these moments are, they set the course for an exhilarating and unpredictable new journey you’ll be eager take part in the moment you step out of theatre. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, for your information) has done a fine job of adding new and nostalgic pieces to the Star Wars puzzle and I can’t wait to see what Rian Johnson does with Episode VIII on May 26, 2017. Where does the line for that start?

Hope you’ve got your ticket, because Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out tomorrow. Now go re-watch the trailer below for the 1,000th time:

Want even more Star Wars intel? Check out all our Force Awakens coverage on one handy dandy page!

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