Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures             132 minutes                    PG-13

Finally! Now everybody, including the cast, can talk about it. Director J.J. Abrams has done what everyone was expecting, but few thought he could deliver. He’s brought George Lucas and Writer Larry Kasden’s original characters “home” and incorporated new faces to bring the Star Wars legacy forward in a massive $200 million dollar production. You don’t have to be a follower to enjoy this huge spectacle, but it helps if you’re familiar with the characters and the story before you take a ringside seat.

This fantasy is fantastic and this is why Disney put out $4 billion dollars to buy Lucas Films and this franchise. The expectation is that it will more than pay for itself. This is the first time George Lucas is not directly involved. But you will be. It will draw you in and you’ll be on the edge of your seat.

Even Harrison Ford seems surprised that he, and the story line, are still so popular 38 years later. Ford said he had some misgivings about getting back into the role of Hans Solo, but says, once he did, it felt right. His comedic timing and delivery of some very Solo lines brought laughs. As does his teddy-bear-like side-kick, Chewbacca played once again by Peter Mayhew.

Abrams says one of the fun things is that this movie is a brand new story. It’s about new characters you haven’ seen before. And he says to have them exist in such an entertaining way and with Star Wars beloved characters is really thrilling. He’s patting himself on the back and so is the cast. They are all in awe of what he was able to accomplish.

We agree, and so did the audience, at a screening opening day. We decided to wait and see it with a big crowd and Lupita Nyong’o says that this is the way it was meant to be seen. Do you need to see it in 3D to fully appreciate the effects and the action? We don’t think so. You’ll be on the edge of your seat either way.

Carrie Fisher states that she never stopped being Princess Leia. She says it just doesn’t go away. “It comes back like a persistent rash!” Fisher, now General Organa, has had fun with her interviews including bringing her hilarious dog on the Red Carpet! She’s one tough cookie in the film as well as when she’s talking about it. Her scenes with Harrison Ford were somewhat awkward but it was fun to see them together.

The new female lead in this film is even more of an action hero who proves it from the her most moments on camera. Daisy Ridley describes her role as Rey as “a simple young woman, who gets swept up in an incredible journey.” At first, she does not appear to be most likely to succeed, but we think girls will latch on to her as a strong heroic character.

Ridley says even she didn’t know what she was getting herself into. When she landed in the desert in Abu Dabi the first day to start work in 125 degree heat, she says she was terrified calling it a “baptism by fire.” But with Abrams at the helm and the support of all those on the set, she says she was able to go beyond what she thought she could do and do some “really cool stuff.” Ridley smiles saying “Rey and Lea are both pretty kick ass.”

John Boyega, who plays Finn, the Stormtrooper who transforms and helps Rey, says he “bottled” the audition but still got the part. No one was allowed to take the script home to memorize their lines. It took 7 months of auditions and he couldn’t wait to tell his parents he got a job!

Boyega is a fresh face for many reasons, sparking controversy early on for being the first time we’ve seen a Black faced Stormtrooper. And he brings a younger sensibility to the role. He’s open and honest wanting to do the right thing. We wonder how an evil Stormtrooper got such a sense of fairness and justice. But it works. And the friendship Finn develops with Rey also works.

Adam Driver is known for his edgy roles in the HBO series, Girls, and in film comedies. He’s not funny in this one. Now he’s the evil masked Kylo Ren, working from the Dark Side with the First Order out to dominate the galaxy. He goes light saber to light saber with Rey and Finn. Driver says the characters are the strength of this film and he is a strong villain. The mask helps us buy into his evil transformation.

Oscar Isaac as Poe is the hot-shot fighter pilot. He, too, is in a very different role than we’ve seen him before. And he looked like he was having fun being a macho warrior with every barrel roll. Isaac liked that this film dealt with so many issues including “families, spirituality, finding your place in the world.” And he says those are the things people in every culture around the world can relate to.

Composer, John Williams is back! The cast loved seeing him in action conducting the orchestration to the film as scenes were being shown on a big screen. They said the experience was amazing. In addition to the iconic Star Wars theme, there’s original themes for the new characters. Director Abrams says the music was just as right this time out as when George Lucas and Williams did the original. He describes the new music for the characters as soaring, emotional and powerful and so well integrated with the music we already know.

The sets are huge and Harrison says walking back into the Millenium Falcon was as familiar as it was 38 years ago. But they actually had to rebuild it from pictures because it was dismantled after the first trilogy. Who knew they’d need it again?

There’s a lot that references the originals and Lupito N’yongo and Andy Serkis are two more significant additions to this film. There’s already a script for Star Wars VIII and Daisy Ridley says she’s already seen the script and thinks it’s great! Looper’s Rian Johnson has been tapped to direct it. We interviewed him at the Dallas International Film Festival a few years ago and saw him again at the Austin Film Festival.

George Lucas and Star Wars have always been known for setting the bar for technological innovation and creativity in filmmaking and J.J. Abrams continues in that tradition using today’s state-of-the-art techniques. They used green screen but he also insisted on building as much as possible, including a working model of BB 8, the rolling Droid.

Is this worth your bucks? See this epic with a crowd in a theater. It’s sure to be a classic. Mark Hamill is still Luke Skywalker. The actor explains the return of Star Wars is like the “Fables and fairy tales that have always been handed down generation to generation.”  It’s fun to see parents and even grandparents explain the backstory to the kids. This isn’t only for the Comic Con crowd, but for all ages. There was no way to escape the hype for this chapter in the Star Wars legacy. Now that the Force is Awakened, are you ready for the hype and anticipation for the next one to come? The Force is already with you.