By ZACH NOBLE
Abrams did what Lucas couldn't.
"Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens" is the second-best "Star Wars" movie ever made, and it's better than any film for which George Lucas wrote the screenplay. It's not because of any twists or surprises (yeah, spoilers, everybody's related, everybody can use the Force and all the characters you love die, yes even Chewbacca because yes the Yuuzhan Vong show up jk I was lying those were not real spoilers).
It's because writer/director J.J. Abrams kept things simple, stupid.
Unlike the dumpster fire prequels, characters show you their skills and personalities instead of merely describing them to one another.
They actually have adventures, instead of merely referencing off-screen exploits.
Moments of silence illustrate emotions. There's no droning about galactic trade or politics; the only time you see the Galactic Senate is when it gets (actual minor spoiler here) BLOWN UP THANK GOD.
The battle sequences are uncluttered.
But the best parts might just come at the very beginning and very end of the movie.
The opening crawl begins with a short, clean sentence: Luke Skywalker has vanished.
Nostalgia, mystery and the promise of adventure, held in four simple words. It takes "Star Wars" back to its roots, an ur-story of good and evil, an archetypal hero's quest, a hodge-podge of influences synthesized into a straightforward whole.
It's real, and genuine, and accessible.
And the end credits contain a treat of their own: "Based on characters created by George Lucas."
No writer's credit for old George, and praise be for that. Someone else has done better by his characters than he ever did himself.
Zach Noble is a journalist who has covered everything from the OPM hack to a rescue dog's retirement party. He's been wrestling to reconcile his bleeding heart Catholicism with his pragmatic libertarianism since that freshman year love affair with Ayn Rand. He tweets erratically as @thezachnoble.