For as much as Harrison Ford has, let’s face it, hated the character of Han Solo over the last, oh, 32 years (despite Ford’s newfound, let’s say, toleration of everything Solo over the last few months), you would never guess it from watching Ford blast, fly and finagle his way through Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is Ford’s best performance in years — he really looks like he’s a guy having fun on the set of a Star Wars movie for the first time since the original Star Wars. (Ford is great in The Empire Strikes Back, but that’s not really a “fun” movie.) In the next few years, Lucasfilm will be releasing a new standalone Han Solo movie featuring some other actor playing the role. In the meantime, The Force Awakens is almost a Han Solo movie unto itself.
But, not quite, because Daisy Ridley as a lonely desert scavenger named Rey; John Boyega as a former First Order Stormtrooper, now wanted deserter, Finn; and Oscar Issac as Resistance pilot Poe (I would have liked to have seen a little more Poe) are all so fantastic, and they bring to The Force Awakens what the prequels were so desperately missing: a sense of humor. There are actual laughs to be had in The Force Awakens! The original Star Wars had laughs. It’s this, more than anything, that makes The Force Awakens feel like a direct sequel to the original trilogy.
The Force Awakens does not take itself too seriously – oh, boy, just wait until you watch Domhnall Gleeson ham it up as General Hux – and this is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong! There are many “serious” moments, it just threads that needle like a Star Wars movie should.