The kind view — the uncynical view, the generous view — is that director J.J. Abrams just wants to give the joy of childhood back to a generation that fell in love with Star Wars back in 1977. (Plus maybe win a new generation over to that story’s mythological power.) Because what he’s done is to remake Star Wars: A New Hope; tweaking it for the passage of time; improving on the acting, the effects, and the dialogue; and tossing in some bits from its sequels (a lightsaber in the snow, father-son conflicts above the void, a journey to find a Jedi master, a strike team sent to take out a shield generator, etc.). Some things are the same with different names: the Empire and the Rebellion are now The First Order and the Resistance. Some things are the same with different people: the Emperor and Darth Vader are now the Supreme Leader and Kylo Ren. Some things are the same with different sizes – New Hope had a weapon that could destroy a planet; Force Awakens has a weapon that can destroy multiple planets. (Both have a weak spot.) Some things are the same but updated, an orphan in the desert with a mysterious heritage, a swashbuckling pilot, a plucky droid. And some things are simply the same: C-3PO and R2-D2, the Millennium Falcon, and oh yes, the Force. The unkind view — the cynical view, the greedminded view — is that there is no need for new ideas when people will line up to pay for old ones. (2015) — Matthew Lickona
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