Star Wars: The Force Awakens had a lot of hype to live up to – and according to critics, it has, and then some.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens picks up years after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi as the first film in the franchise sequel trilogy. When Return of the Jedi came to a close, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) had succeeded in triumphing over evil. So many years later, however, war is still among them. While the members of the old guard still have their parts to play in the events that unfold in The Force Awakens, it’s desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) who have picked up the torch.

Star Wars The Force Awakens Reviews

J.J. Abrams’ debut film in the Star Wars franchise is a hit with critics, who believe he’s managed to keep the charm of the original films while ushering the movies into a modern age for modern audiences. Likewise, the performances of the new stars have been lauded.

“Set aside worries about the second coming of The Phantom Menace. With a cast of entertaining new characters, heartfelt scenes, huge planetary battles and no qualms about being very funny or very dark at times, director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens (**** out of four; rated PG-13; in theaters Friday, with preview screenings Thursday night) returns the iconic sci-fi franchise to a glorious place that hasn’t been seen since Ewoks danced off into victory in Return of the Jedi 32 years ago.” – Brian Truitt, USA Today

“Directed by J.J. Abrams, this new episode, opening Friday, is both grand and human scale. It features many action sequences — skirmishes, attacks, laser gun battles and hand-to-hand (and light saber to light saber) combat. But none of it is overdone, and none of it feels overstuffed or at the expense of the characters. It is what the first “Star Wars” was, and what the series always was when it was at its best, a story about people caught up in troubles they didn’t look for, who rise to the moment.” – Mike LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

“What a beautiful, thrilling, joyous, surprising and heart-thumping adventure this is. “The Force Awakens” pops with memorable battle sequences, gives us chills with encore appearances by stars from the original trilogy and introduces more than a half-dozen terrific Next Generation characters. If the U.S. presidential election were held this weekend, director-producer-co-writer J.J. Abrams might carry the day based on geek support alone.” Richard Roeper, RichardRoeper.com

“Despite the prerelease hype, it won’t save the world, not even Hollywood, but it seamlessly balances cozy favorites — Harrison Ford, ladies and gentlemen — and new kinetic wows along with some of the niceties that went missing as the series grew into a phenomenon, most crucially a scale and a sensibility that is rooted in the human. It has the usual toy-store-ready gizmos and critters, but it also has appealingly imperfect men and women whose blunders and victories, decency and goofiness remind you that a pop mythology like “Star Wars” needs more than old gods to sustain it.” – Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters Friday, Dec. 18.

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