Speaking of Professor Jones, after not quite hitting the mark in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Ford revives Han Solo as the kooky uncle Rey and Finn never had. He’s the emotional center of the movie, both friend and mentor to the pair, capable of dishing wry advice while blasting through enemy territory. (He’s an expert, at this point.) Abrams feeds Ford plenty of cheeky gags with Chewie, but his scenes with Fisher really recapture the feeling of the original trilogy. Though both older and a little stiffer, an emotional connection to the First Order adds weight to their legacy romance. Just beautiful.
Oh, and BB-8 the droid is your new favorite pet. If only they had Instagram in the Star Wars universe.
What doesn't: There's a scene in the movie where the Resistance's inner circle assesses the First Order's prized possession: a weapon "three times bigger than the Death Star." And in Abrams' hands, Force Awakens is three times bigger than its predecessors, sacrosanct, and on steroids. After Rey blasts off from Jakku (that's inevitable -- it's Star Wars), the journey becomes a mirror-universe version of its source material, staging pivotal moments so as to invoke Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, and peppering the dialogue with references galore (hey, a trash compactor joke!). Abrams' action direction doesn't have the verve to challenge these classic cues. The dogfights never hit a top speed and late-game shootouts suffer from a stiff, suffocating approach. All the problems derive from a general point of confusion: should the set pieces be composed and restrained, as they were in the original trilogy, or should they take full advantage of the special-effects tools that they blew out in the prequels?