Thursday, December 17, 2015

'The Force Awakens' — and is strong: A no-spoiler review

When the instantly recognizable Lucasfilm logo appeared on the screen Thursday night at Premiere Theatre 8 in Norwalk, you could have heard a pin drop. Or maybe the quiet hum of a lightsaber.

Fans went silent as director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” started.

Then John Williams’ triumphant main theme kicked in when the iconic, yellow “Star Wars” logo was on the big screen. I’ll admit it; I had full-body goosebumps — the kind that make me smile and returns me to the 7 1/2-year-old boy I was in 1977.

For this lifelong fan, there’s nothing like experiencing the saga with the master composer’s memorable score. I can’t say enough for what Williams’ music has done for the story created by George Lucas.

Williams helps sells Abrams’ compelling and dramatic story. Aside from the opening fanfare, the next time Williams hits a musical grand slam in “The Force Awakens” is the first time we see the Millennium Falcon.

But what about the story?

The audience seemed to hold its collective breath as the background story of “Episode VII” rolled in its unique way into the distance. Or was that just me?

And no, I won’t tell you anything about what happens in “The Force Awakens.”

Let’s put it this way: This is a no-spoiler review, so I’m not going to get into anything specific — not even the name of any characters.

The seventh film in the saga hits a lot of the right notes from the original trilogy. (Sorry, that musical pun just happened spontaneously. … Honest.)

Just as all six “Star Wars” films did, “The Force Awakens” features complicated and unusual relationships (some of them broken) — not to mention several characters undergoing journeys of self-discovery. The light and dark sides of the Force remain in tension.

There are familiar, yet older faces and equally familiar sound effects — lightsabers, the scream of the TIE Fighter engines and the “pew pew!” of laser blasts. Themes and schtick we’re used to seeing are there too. Abrams even uses the “screen swipes” that Lucas incorporated to change scenes.

Team Abrams deftly pays homage to themes and circumstances from the previous films, sometimes as inside jokes. But always with respect.

And yes, a classic character has “a bad feeling about this.”

Most importantly, the story, plot, events and developments in “The Force Awakens” answer as many questions as it prompts more. I expected nothing less from the universe set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

As the last scene ended and the credits — once again in the familiar blue letters — started, the audience clapped. A lot. That just doesn’t happen these days in theaters.

Grade: A 

NORWALK REFLECTOR staff writer and Cary's Comics Craze blogger Cary Ashby is a lifelong “Star Wars” fan. Email him your feedback to

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