‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is a holiday gift

Star Wars fans line up outside of the Capawock on Thursday night. —Photo courtesy of Richard Paradise

Filmgoers flocked to Vineyard Haven’s Capawock Theatre last weekend for the opening of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The seventh in the series, it is a perfect holiday gift from Hollywood, and a welcome escape from real-world woes. The film will play on-Island at least through Jan. 14.

Directed by J.J. Abrams, the latest installment in America’s favorite fantasy space adventure film series returns a number of the original characters. They include Millennium Falcon pilot Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Jedi warrior Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia, now a general (Carrie Fisher) — and, of course, Wookie warrior Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). A new generation of characters joins these stalwarts. Adam Driver plays the evil Kylo Ren, while Daisy Ridley as desert scavenger Rey fights for the Empire, along with John Boyega as reformed Stormtrooper Finn and Oscar Isaac as Resistance pilot Poe Cameron. A new astromech, BB-8, joins R2-D2 and C-3PO, and Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is a Yoda-like presence. This latest Star Wars film, which comes 30 years after “Return of the Jedi,” has introduced 21st century political correctness with a woman (Ridley), an African-American (Boyega), and a Hispanic (Isaac) as core characters.

Some Island filmgoers arrived at the theaters with lightsabers poised and other memorabilia on hand. Despite the fan tributes to weaponry, Martha’s Vineyard Film Society director Richard Paradise reported there were no real concerns about security. “We’re fortunate we live in a location that urban issues don’t seem to be a major concern,” he said. He did make routine checks of Capawock exit doors to make sure they were secured. On opening night, the theatre sold over $700 in concessions, and ran out of popcorn.

“I loved it!” Jackie Stallings of Vineyard Haven said in an email to the Times. “From the beginning credits, I was 11 years old again in 1977.” Ms. Stallings and her husband, who own the Ritz in Oak Bluffs, joined 200 other dedicated fans at the Capawock on Thursday. Growing up, she and her siblings collected action figures, blasters, and lightsabers, as well as the 45-rpm record of the “Star Wars” theme. When her son turned 3, the adult Ms. Stallings gave him a “Star Wars” birthday party where her sister dressed as Leia and her brother as Darth Vader. A few years later she took her children to “The Attack of the Clones.” “Now that my kids are adults,” she says, “it is something fun and exciting that we can share.” She and her daughter even have a have a Pinterest page dedicated to “The Force.”

Most critics felt that “The Force Awakens” skipped past the less successful prequels from the 1990s to the glory of the original three episodes of the series. Music by composer John Williams and eerie intergalactic settings tie “The Force Awakens” to the rest of the episodes.

Screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, who helped pen “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi,” joined director Abrams and Michael Arndt to fine-tune the plot. Filmed in 35mm rather than digital, “The Force Awakens” is a fitting introduction to a new round of an old favorite; more installments will follow.

For screening times and tickets, visit mvfilmsociety.com or go to MVTimes event listings.