'The Force Awakens' Is a Masterpiece of Nostalgia

01/17/2016 06:11 am ET | Updated Jan 17, 2016


The Force Awakens is a brilliantly manipulative piece of film-making meant to reel in everyone who loved the first three Lucas films and rightly despised the next trio. And make them bring their kids, too.

It's got real humor.

It's got a giant planet-destroying weapon -- this time, an actual planetary super-gizmo that harnesses the power of the Sun.

It's got a great pilot destroying that weapon.

It's got Han Solo, Chewbaca, Princess Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 (with crucial information once again).

It's got The Millenium Falcon. Of course.

It's got a confrontation between the villain and a hero on a narrow bridge. Ta-dah!

It's got a bar full of funky aliens.

It's got Han being pursued again, but not just by one bounty hunter, this time it's two teams of space thugs.

It's got more blasts from the past than that; you can draw up your own list when you see it. Movie theaters should be serving cocoa along with the other refreshments -- TFA is that much of a comfort view.

What almost saves TFA from feeling like a total retread with an upgrade here and there is the bristling performance of Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on a desert planet (how could it not have a desert planet?).

Ridley is fierce and funny, like a young Emily Blunt, and she makes a terrific action protagonist. I vote for her as the lead when they reboot the Alien franchise, because it's about time.

She's the best new cast member, far outshining Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and John Boyega, all of whom seem either frantic or dull. She almost steals the movie, except that it's already stolen goods. Well, borrowed.

Sci-fi was the first genre I fell in love with as a young reader -- starting with Heinlein, Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula K. LeGuin, Ray Bradbury --and I've been watching science fiction movies for almost as long. I wanted to like The Force Awakens, but it lost my interest the further it sped down Galactic Memory Lane.

It seems that George Lucas agrees. He's "criticized the producers and writers of the latest film for emphasizing familiar elements of his previous work -- some of which he said had issues -- over innovation and storytelling of their own."

But fans will say he's jealous they're making more money than he did....

Lev Raphael's books -- from mystery to memoir -- can be found on Amazon.