The Force delivers

It doesn’t disappoint.

And in a lot of ways, it surpasses expectations.

With The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams delivers an entertaining and satisfying continuation of the Star Wars saga – one that succeeds within its own context while also offering an encouraging glimpse at what’s to come. And, rest assured, it will come.

Naturally, the story re-introduces us to some familiar and much-loved characters: Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and Kenny Baker, billed as “R2-D2 Consultant.” (At age 81, and with effects’ advancements, there’s scarcely a need to confine him in the actual Droid.)

Some have much to do, some not so much, and Ford ends up the principal veteran in The Force Awakens, which takes place 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi (1983) and continues the ongoing conflict between the First Order, an offshoot of the Empire (the bad guys), and the Rebellion (the good guys). Some things, it seems, never change – but who’s complaining?

There are also new characters, chief among them John Boyega as Finn, an Imperial stormtrooper gone good, and Daisy Ridley as savvy scavenger Rey, in whom the Force seems strong. They comfortably shoulder their leading roles as they’re drawn – and incorporated — into the ongoing saga. Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac do well in supporting roles that bode to be bigger, while others of note include Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Gwendoline Christie, Simon Pegg, Greg Grunberg, Billie Lourd (Fisher’s real-life daughter), and Max von Sydow, whom it’s always nice to see … even if only briefly. (Very briefly.)

Graced with the best special effects money can buy, The Force Awakens delivers the action it promises, yet it’s also got heart – something curiously lacking in Abrams’ well-made but unmoving Star Trek films (the third is due next summer). At 135 minutes, there could have been some trimming around the edges, but given the voraciousness of the fans, it’s probably wiser to have too much than too little.

The screenplay, by Empire Strikes Back/ Return of the Jedi scribe Lawrence Kasdan, Abrams and Denis Arndt, expands upon the mythos fashioned by Lucas and, with Lucas having made the prequels (how well remains a hot topic of debate), The Force Awakens has the benefit of progression. The film can – and does — move forward, and can – and will — expand the Star Wars universe.

The Force is strong with this one. May it continue.