Where ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ hits and misses

It’s no surprise “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is breaking box office records. But given the franchise’s less-than-stellar track record lately – namely, any film released in the past 20 years – there was some uncertainty as to whether or not J. J. Abrams could revive the blockbuster franchise to an acclaimed hit. 

Thankfully, the force is strong with Abrams. As much as “The Force Awakens” remixes ploys from the original trilogy, it’s a fun, familiar ride – and exactly what every fan wanted from the galaxy far, far away.

Here’s the film’s greatest hits, and a few misfires.

(Warning: Minor plot spoilers ahead)

Hits

BB-8

After being inundated with BB-8 merchandise and a very cool but expensive toy, it felt like BB-8 was being oversold. Was this cute roly-poly droid going to turn into another Jar-Jar situation? Were his high-pitched going to haunt fans?

Not at all. BB-8 is an adorable and loveable little guy, an earnest and brave reminder of why we all loved R2D2.

Rey

When I was initiated into the “Star Wars” universe though “The Phantom Menace,” the only young characters I had to admire were Anakin or Padme. But let’s face it, Anakin hit his peak after rounding the final lap of his Tattooine podrace, and stone-cold Padme has the emotional range of a rock – not to mention the creepiness of their affection.

Yes, Rey is typecast as that strong female character promised in a more diverse “Star Wars” universe. But she’s more than just a girl-power hero eschewing a helping hand from Finn – she has depth. Rey cries, flails sarcastic quips, and is afraid and troubled by her past. Strong female characters are one thing in a franchise with notably few female voices, but true female characters is another.

Diversity

On that note, there’s also Finn, Leia and dozens of diverse extras depicted in essential roles on both sides. The last time the Rebel Alliance met in “Return of the Jedi,” leader Mon Mothma (a woman) was hardly heard over a crew of white males; the only diversity was in alien species with Admiral Akbar. This time, Leia – excuse me, General Leia – is flanked by a diverse array of commanders, and even the First Order has instituted a newly inclusive standard.

But it’s not like this is some politically correct force-feeding – it actually feels more accurate. The entire universe can’t just be made up of 90 percent white males, right?

Every time Han and Leia look at each other

(Still from the trailer)
(Still from the trailer)

Try to hold back your tears.

Not reinventing the Death Star

Or, just making it a lot bigger. If “The Force Awakens” is service to fans suffering from a long “Phantom Menace “ hangover, then there’s no need to redo an old trope that works quite well: blowing up a big thing in space and a good old fashioned lightsaber finale.

Han Solo flying the Millennium Falcon

(Still from the trailer)
(Still from the trailer)

Will anyone ever learn to properly fly that thing? Will it ever fall apart? Let’s hope not. Flying along with that lumbering machine certainly feels like home.

Misses

Maz Kanata – and every CGI character

The 1000-year-old pirate (Lupita Nyong’o) gives this “Star Wars” a distinctly mythical flair, but feels foreign in a universe filled with lifelike puppet characters. Maz Kanata looks more like an oddball Hogwarts professor than a wise and ancient “Star Wars” alien.

Kylo Ren

kylo

Maybe it’s the long wavy hair and less-than-menacing wheezing, but Kylo Ren doesn’t hold up to the Dark Side scariness of Vader. He’s weak and a little too good, but there’s always a bigger puppet master behind it all.

A few awkward jokes

It’s good to finally enjoy a “Star Wars” movie that doesn’t take itself as seriously as Hayden Christensen in Episodes 2 and 3. But there are fewer quick sarcastic quips and a few too many that drag on a bit too long. Finn, notably somewhat inept, fumbles around for the correct tool to hand off to Rey as she fixes the Falcon. Earlier, Rey throws away Finn’s repeated attempts to grab her hand as they flee the First Order. It’s cheesy and a little childlike, but bearable.