Movie review: "Star Wars: Episode VII": The feelings awaken

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

When I started to love "Star Wars" was when I started to love movies.

When I was a kid on the playground at Nashport Elementary School, my best friends and I would spend recess pretending that the monkey bars were the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. One friend was blond, so he was Luke Skywalker. Another was pretty good at growling, at least for a third-grader, so he was Chewbacca. That meant I got to be Han Solo. That meant I was lucky.

I didn't understand then why these movies affected me so much. I didn't understand how movies worked. I barely understood how feelings worked. I was a kid. But the movies made me feel stuff. Wonder. Elation. Sadness. Hope.

Since then, I've learned about how movies operate. I've studied film. I've been a movie critic for over 15 years. I've dissected how movies manipulate us emotionally. But I still don't quite understand that magic of how some light and sounds and pictures can make us feel.

I'm not going to talk about any of the details of "The Force Awakens," because you probably don't want that any more than I do. I'm just going to talk about how it made me feel.

It made me feel like that kid on the monkey bars again. It also made me feel like an old man who has had his share of feelings over the years, even if he still doesn't quite understand how they work.

George Lucas kicked off the original trilogy as a hodgepodge homage to the serial adventures he grew up on. J.J. Abrams did the same thing, only he grew up on "Star Wars." This is the movie that "Star Wars" fans have been waiting for, because this is a "Star Wars" fan film.

"The Force Awakens" dips heavily into nostalgia, sometimes with whimsy, more often with weight. We feel for the returning characters because we know them. We have history with them. Just seeing them on that screen again can bring goosebumps, but none of these moments is wasted or cheap. Abrams knows how to pull this off because he knows us. And he knows us because he's one of us.

It's not the old friends that make this movie great. The new characters are creating a new mythology. This is the beginning of great villain. This is the beginning of a great hero. This is the beginning of a great story.

After two hours, all I wanted was more. It could have gone on for four. The wait for the next episode will be unbearable, just like it was when I was a kid. All because some light and sound and pictures made me feel things.

This is why I love "Star Wars." This is why I love movies.

4 stars out of 4