If there's any movie you should see in theaters, The Force Awakens is it. From the first frame you're sucked right back into the Star Wars universe, and that's probably the best part of the movie - it feels genuinely like Star Wars. Not a child-pandering political farce (The Phantom Menace), a melodramatic soap opera (I'm looking at you Attack of the Clones) or a CGI filled sensory overload (Revenge of the Sith anyone?). No, it's barebones Star Wars. Visually stunning, constantly engaging, and most of all, it's incredibly fun. There are a lot of parallels with A New Hope, like how we're beginning this epic adventure with vastly different characters and learning their stories for the first time. And it shares the basic outline of that movie as well from the monumental opening shot to its massive riveting climax. It's a blast from beginning to end, and especially exhilarating in a packed IMAX theater.
The characters are easily relatable from the moment they're shown. Their stories are simple and to the point, allowing the audience to follow them in their journey every step of the way. There's also a lot of humor in the movie, and not the dopey kind either. It's clever and self-referential humor that suits the characters and their motivations while also being damn funny in context.
It's hard to put this into words because if you're a fan, you're well aware that watching Star Wars is an experience. There's a rush of being back in the universe and seeing some of your favorite characters again. The threats are even bigger this time around. The First Order is what the Empire has become, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and his apprentice Kylo Ren. At first glance Kylo might seem like a second-rate Vader, but he has much more depth than that. Things are revealed in the movie that piece everything together, and when all is said and done, Kylo Ren is not only a great villain but a great character - charismatic but insecure, arrogant but unexperienced. You can empathize with him at times, but it's obvious there's great darkness within him, and not only because of his haunting mask. The heroes Rey and Finn are immediately likable and easy to root for, and when they start uncovering the bigger picture behind the First Order's sinister plot, they behave exactly as you'd expect them to. Not pompous or valiant but hesitant and curious, at least until their lives are on the line and the only way for them to survive is to band together. Then their inner heroism comes to light.
Everything about The Force Awakens is phenomenal - the acting, directing, and writing are all on point, and it serves as a wonderful template for this new Star Wars era. I don't need to spoil anything because the fact is, if you loved the original trilogy you're going to love this. Hell, if you're a fan of good cinema you should love this. Episode VII is what Star Wars fans have been yearning for, and when all is said and done, I couldn't ask for anything more.