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‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ review: Promising franchise reboot that mixes old, new

John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as

John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as Rey in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," directed by J.J. Abrams. Credit: AP / David James

For lifelong “Star Wars” fans, and those whose young lives have only recently been touched by George Lucas’ enduring films, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrives with a mix of sky-high expectations and just a hint of trepidation. Now that it’s officially here, you can breathe easy — and perhaps even rejoice.

The seventh film in the franchise, and the first to hit theaters in a decade, may not have the ineffable magic of the original films, but it’s good enough to wipe away your memories of those prequels you only pretended to like.

Directed by J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”) with a savvy blend of warm nostalgia, effects-driven spectacle and shrewd commercialism, “The Force Awakens” does a fine job of bringing a cherished old series into a new, Marvel-dominated age.

Rest assured this review contains no spoilers; if ever a movie deserved its veil of secrecy, it’s this one.

“The Force Awakens” focuses on two new characters, a tomboyish scavenger named Rey (Daisy Ridley) and, more intriguingly, a former Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega).

Thrown together on the dusty planet Jakku, they’re drawn into a galactic struggle between the tyrannical First Order and the Resistance, led by Princess (now General) Leia, played once again by the endearing Carrie Fisher.

So far, so familiar — which is both a strength and a weakness here. As the story (cowritten by Lawrence Kasdan, of “The Empire Strikes Back”) progresses, the parallels sometimes feel too pat: The roly-poly droid BB-8 is our new R2-D2, the giant Starkiller Base is our new Death Star, and so on.

And just wait until you find out whose child is whose.

What saves “The Force Awakens” from feeling like a mere rehash is the presence of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo — just the thought is enough to make any fan shiver with delight — who links us to the story we remember. Ford is as charming and rugged as ever, and the film wisely puts him front and center. By contrast, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, a Resistance pilot, gets little screen time.

And what of our new villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)? Despite his black mask and cloak, he’s not merely another Darth Vader, and that’s largely due to Driver, who gives the character a ferocious physicality and an unexpected humanity. Next to Ford, Driver is the film’s most crucial component.

Is “The Force Awakens” equal to the original trilogy? Fans will have to face facts: Such unique magic can never be recreated, any more than the Beatles can reunite.

The new “Star Wars” films must create a universe of their own — and they’re off to a promising start.

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