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Following in the footsteps of one of the most successful film franchises in cinematic history, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens is a completely fulfilling return to the galaxy far, far away. Not only does the film pay homage to the past installments, but moves forward with a bold and imaginative story that blends elements of old and new. Director J.J. Abrams brings an inescapable sense of fun that never shrinks from the dramatic, delivering a Star Wars film that is funny, smart, exciting, and at points genuinely moving.

Just as the story blends old and new, the cast also reflects this dynamic. Not only does the film get a great trio of leads in John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, and Oscar Isaac, who each give different and energetic performances that reflect the original films, but also the return of the classic heroes, most notably Harrison Ford as Han Solo; Ford gives the best performance in the film as a disgruntled, disheartened, but ultimately heroic character, and is completely deserving of an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film’s villains also have quite a presence; Adam Driver gives a chilling and tragic performance as Kylo Ren, as does a great role from Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke.

In an era of franchises and sequels, few are able to distinguish themselves. What The Force Awakens does as a sequel and adventure film is remarkable in every way, and no minor drawbacks can distract from what a continuously imaginative story this is. The Star Wars franchise has longevity due to its characters, mythology, and tone, and to see a film that so clearly understands that is promising for the future of what the franchise may hold. Grade: A+