This post covers Act 1, from the beginning of the film until the first appearance of Han Solo. For the rest of the story, click over to recaps of Act 2 and Act 3.
SEE ALSO: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' review
The Lucasfilm logo appears; then the STAR WARS card. Followed by the familiar yellow scroll:
Luke Skywalker has vanished! In his absence, the sinister First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire and will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed. ...
After all the text scrolls to the top of the screen and fades to stars, we pan down to rest on a blue planet with a small moon.
Soon, both are blotted out by a hulking, oncoming Star Destroyer larger than the New Hope versions, and modified. From these, a small handful of transports begin to take flight. In the flickering light, we see they are filled with Stormtroopers! As they begin their nighttime approach on a small village, they are spotted by the rolling astromech droid BB-8.
And we cut to ...
The map handoff
Inside a firelit shelter, a small pouch is passed from an older set of hands to a younger set.
The movie's first line of dialogue: "This will begin to make things right," from Lor San Tekka (Max Von Sydow).
"Because of you, we have a chance," says Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), wearing a stylish, tooled-leather jacket instead of a flight suit. The astromech droid BB-8 pokes into the opening and burbles something ominous. Poe has clearly understood what the little droid said; he looks outside to see the arriving transports. "Awwww, we've got company," he says with alarm.
Poe and Lor step outside the tent. "You have to hide," Poe says to his older companion, who replies: "You have to leave."
The ships land and a blaster battle ensues. The few villagers who resist get the worst of it, as these are not your father's bumbling Stormtroopers. One of them torches the scene with a flamethrower.
Poe has run the short distance to his X-Wing, but it's been badly damaged in the firefight. In desperation, he drops the contents of the pouch a memory fob, like a big, chunky USB flash drive into a little drawer on BB-8's body.
"You get as far away from here as you can!" Poe compels his little droid friend. "I'll come back for you! We'll be all right!"
Poe takes a shot at an encroaching Stormtrooper and his aim is deadly. A second Stormtrooper is stricken to see his companion fall, and goes to help, but it's no use the fallen soldier is bleeding out. He wipes his friend's helmet with four finger-streaks of blood and dies.
A three-winged shuttle-type craft that resembles what the Empire once used to transport Darth Vader and the Emperor is landing. It's Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, completely masked), walking up on Lor San Tekka, who is in custody.
"Look how old you've become," are his first spoken words, to which Lor replies: "Something far worse has happened to you. ... The First Order rose from the Dark Side; you did not. You cannot deny the truth of your family."
"You're so right," comes his reply, followed by Lor's execution.
Next up is Poe, who's been caught by Stormtroopers and brought to his knees before Kylo Ren. There is a pause.
"So who talks first, do I talk first? You talk first," blabbers Poe.
Captain Phasma, the tall, chrome-plated Stormtrooper (Gwendoline Christie), approaches Kylo Ren and asks, "Sir, the villagers?"
"Kill them all" is his reply, and the firing resumes except for the blood-streaked Stormtrooper, who stands in the firing-squad line but has not discharged his weapon. He cannot. From across the field, Kylo Ren eyes him.
Poe Dameron's X-Wing is destroyed in the fusillade, and from a safe distance, BB-8 is making his escape. He turns to see the fireball that Dameron's X-Wing has become. As he rolls through the desert, a hammerhead-like alien with glowing eyes watches.
Back onboard the Star Destroyer, Captain Phasma is giving the blood-streaked Stormtrooper the third degree; he will have to hand over his weapon for analysis. She calls him by name: FN2187.
And we cut to ...
A day in the life of Rey
A head wrapped in goggles and desert scarves.
It peers into the cavernous space of a Star Destroyer downed and abandoned in the desert, a relic from a long-ago battle. In the search for salvageable parts, the scavenger reveals herself to be Rey (Daisy Ridley). She feels she's found enough, so she slides down the sand dune, mounts her speeder and heads back to the trading outpost.
It's manned by Unkar Plutt, a junkboss of Jakku, who trades food rations for parts at this spare, remote bazaar. Rey's are enough for "one-quarter portion," and that'll have to do; she heads back home to prepare the evening meal, a greenish loaf that instantly rises from the packet she's earned. As she eats, she playfully sticks a battered X-Wing helmet with Rebel insignia on her head. The camera pans away to reveal that she's sitting at the foot of a topped AT-AT walker, where she lives.
She hears the startled burbling of an astromech droid just over the dunes. She runs to see a Jawa-sized creature, mounted on a plodding beast of burden, with BB-8 in his net. She yells at him in an unfamiliar language, frees the droid and shoos him off.
"That's just Tito," she tells the little droid. "He wants you for parts."
She notices BB-8's antenna is bent and begins to fix it. "Where do you come from?" she asks, then shows him the way to the nearest town warning him to stay away from the sinking sands.
BB-8 is bonded to her, however, and begins to trail behind. "Don't follow me!" she yells. "Town is that way!"
And we cut to ...
Poe gives up the goods
Poe Dameron is in the same type of leaning chair in which Darth Vader once tortured Han Solo; an Interrogator Droid, the likes of which once worked over Princess Leia, floats nearby. Kylo Ren refers to Poe as the best pilot in the Resistance.
"I'm impressed no one has been able to get out of you what you did with the map."
Kylo Ren begins using the Force to pry into Poe's mind, which isn't strong enough to resist.
"It's in a droid a BB-8 unit," Kylo Ren says as he exits the room.
And we cut to ...
Rey's lucky day
"I know all about waiting," she tells BB-8. "For my family. They'll be back one day."
Now she's back in line to sell parts, but the junkboss only takes notice of the droid. He makes an offer: 60 portions!
Rey reflects a moment, and realizes that the droid may be more valuable than she thought. "The droid is not for sale," she says and takes off but the junkboss has radioed to companions, ordering them to get the BB-8 unit. Word of it has already spread on Jakku. "Follow that girl," he says, "and get that droid."
Poe's escape, hatched
Poe is approached by the blood-streaked Stormtrooper, who makes an offer to help him escape. "Can you fly a TIE fighter?"
"Why are you helping me?" he says.
"Because it's the right thing to do," says the the trooper (John Boyega with the helmet off).
Poe realizes: "You need a pilot."
"I need a pilot."
They steal a TIE fighter, yanking it free from its charging cable in a hail of blaster fire, and are off to the races. Poe is flying, Stormtrooper FN2187 is manning the gun as they streak past the ship's defenses. They exchange names, but FN2187 won't do Poe tells him "I'm gonna call you 'Finn,' alright?" and the name sticks.
Poe says he needs to go back to Jakku and Finn protests; then he explains that the droid is carrying a map "that will lead directly to Luke Skywalker." Finn seems to recognize this name.
Meanwhile Kylo Ren knows they are going back for the droid: "Send a squad to the wreckage," he says.
And we cut to:
Back on Jakku
Finn has been flung from the wreckage of the TIE fighter, which is afire. He is screaming for Poe and tries to find him but cannot; suddenly, the TIE fighter is sinking quickly into the sand. He sees Poe's leather jacket and, presuming his new friend now dead, takes it and puts it on.
He walks in the desert until he comes to a high ridge, where he looks down upon the junkers' outpost.
Meet General Hux
Aboard the Star Destroyer, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren are verbally sparring. Kylo Ren suggests Hux' army is incompetent; perhaps clones would've been better. Hux takes offense. "Careful, Ren," Hux says, suggesting that his rival within the rising First Order might be letting his personal feelings cloud his thinking.
And we cut to ...
Rey, Meet Finn
Two goons have found Rey, thrown a cloth over BB-8 and are trying to steal the droid; she is resisting. From a short distance, Finn who has just arrived in town looking for water sees her engage them in a fight, and starts running to help ... except it's soon clear that she doesn't need it. She bests both robbers on her own and frees BB-8, who immediately recognizes Poe's jacket (now being worn by Finn) and tells Rey. She grabs her staff and sprints after Finn, who instead of running in to help Rey is now running from her.
She catches him easily and brings him down with a stiff staff to the face.
"The jacket," she says. "This droid says you stole it." Finn quickly explains the situation, telling her that Poe didn't survive the crash. She asks if he's with the Resistance and he lies and says yes and mentions something about the map to Luke Skywalker.
"Luke Skywalker? I thought he was a myth!" Rey exclaims.
Stormtroopers are upon them! They run with blaster fire on their heels, and soon TIE fighters are adding airstrike fire. Now they are running for a ship to escape in, and Finn points to an unseen spacecraft and says "What about that one?"
"That one is garbage," she replies, "we'll take the Quad Jumper."
But the ship she mentioned is blown apart, and the "garbage" one will have to do. The camera pans to reveal The Millennium Falcon! In tattered coverings and a rectangular radar dish, but otherwise as we remember it. Rey runs for the controls while Finn jumps down to the gun turret.
"This ship hasn't flown in years," Rey says as she powers it up for takeoff. The Falcon is flying clumsily, smashing back to the ground and scraping along the sand as the junkboss runs out to shake his fist and yell "That's MINE!"
Now the Falcon is flying wildly across the surface of Jakku as TIE fighters give chase. The dogfight goes through the belly of the downed Star Destroyer and at one point, Finn's gun is jammed in forward position; to pick off the last TIE fighter, Rey throws the Falcon into a crazy inverted stall that sights Finn's gun right on target, and he fires. It's a hit! And the two head to space, safely clear of the First Order force.
Elated by the skill and daring of their getaway, the two excitedly talk over each other, and finally exchange names.
And we cut to ...
Kylo Ren is being told by a First Order officer that the droid has escaped aboard a stolen Corellian Y-T Model freighter. He ignites his lightsaber and begins destroying the console in frustration, then looks over his shoulder at the officer. "Anything else?" he says. The officer says there is a girl. "What girl?" Kylo Ren replies, even more unhappy than before.
And we cut to ...
Not Jakku again!
Aboard the Falcon, Rey is telling Finn that she needs to go back to Jakku. "Why does everyone around here want to go back to Jakku?" Finn says. But instead of an answer, the ship's lights flicker out. They are being sucked into a much larger freighter. They two hatch a plan to release poisonous gas into the hull while wearing breathing masks. They hide behind a smuggling panel and await the boarding Stormtroopers but who should emerge from the ship's walkway but Han Solo and Chewbacca!
"Chewie," Solo says, "we're home."
And that concludes the first act of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Click over here for Act 2 and Act 3.
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