Spoiler-free review: Hope is rekindled with 'The Force Awakens'

This photo provided by Disney/Lucasfilm shows Daisy Ridley, right, as Rey, and John Boyega as Finn, in a scene from the film, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," directed by J.J. Abrams. The movie opens in U.S. theaters on Dec. 18, 2015. (David James/Disney/Lucasfilm via AP)


"Star Wars: The Force Awakens"
4 out of 5 Stars
J.J. Abrams
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
Genre: Action, adventure, fantasy, sci-fi
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Recommended to: The masses. Everyone. Even the heartbroken fans of the original trilogy who found the prequels to be disappointing.

Synopsis: Set 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star.

Review: There has been so much speculation surrounding the release of "The Force Awakens" that the prognosticators have threatened to take all the fun out of seeing the movie. With each trailer every little detail was analyzed to the point where even the goggles that Rey (Daisy Ridley) wears were given an origin story.

For many of us, "Star Wars" is more than a movie or a cultural phenomenon. It played such a major role in my childhood that it feels like a part of my fabric. I was disappointed by the prequels and with "The Force Awakens" there was a hesitance to allow myself to be sucked back in, out of the fear of being let down again. This reticence inevitably had an impact on the way I viewed the film. If I could have watched the film a second time before writing anything about the film, I would have embraced the opportunity.

With that in mind, let's dive in.

The opening crawl effectively dismantles a hefty amount of the unfounded rumors and then, well, you'll have to look elsewhere for spoilers because I'm not going to give you any.

What I will tell you is that "The Force Awakens" feels very much like a love letter to the original trilogy. From the practical effects and costuming, down to the way many of the finite details of the story are left unexplained. The humor is there as well, but it doesn't feel as juvenile as it did in "The Phantom Menace."

There are ample parallels in the film's foundation that point directly to the tropes George Lucas utilized throughout his "Star Wars" films. "The Force Awakens" feels very much like " A New Hope" with numerous visual cues that point directly to scenes from the original film. However, "The Force Awakens" is more complex in the sense that it isn't just telling the story of a farm boy and his rise from obscurity to take on a mysterious villain.

"A New Hope" wasn't burdened with trying to tell the story of General Jan Dodonna or Bail Organa. It had Luke, Han, Leia with a bit of Obi-wan and Darth Vader thrown in for coloring.

"The Force Awakens" has to make time for its legacy characters while also telling the story of Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

After one viewing I'm not convinced J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan got the balance quite right, and that imbalance, as well as a climax that feels a little too familiar, keeps "The Force Awakens" from really catching flight.

Abrams and Kasdan haven't taken the risks necessary to make "The Force Awakens" a great film, but they've certainly made one that is highly enjoyable and is likely to draw those who strayed following the prequels back into the faith.

More importantly it has me wanting more from the newly established protagonist and hopeful that now that the base has been established that the franchise will have more freedom to tell new stories without having to be constantly compared to the past.

Now that I know it's safe to fall back in love with "Star Wars," I believe that the second time I see "The Force Awakens" I'll laugh more and cry twice as hard.

Go, see it. Come to your own conclusions.

Follow Ryan on Twitter for entertainment and movie news: @ryanMpainter.

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