On December 17th, at 10:30 p.m. in Buckhead, there was an awakening in the force. 

My girlfriend couldn’t be come with me, for family reasons, but I had my boy @ReverendDrDash with me, so everything was cool. I binge-watched spoiler-free reviews all day and every single Star-Wars-related John Boyega interview recorded to date, because clearly we’re destined to be best friends that fight the First Order together. I also might or might not have recently purchased a Finn bobble-head (that I clearly have not opened because we don’t play around with collectibles that need to remain in mint condition like that.)

On the way to the theatre, we joked about how trash the prequels were and blerded out on some extended universe lore — all around good times. We pulled up to the AMC, parked, and soon as we got inside and to our seats, I reverted back to the same 9-year-old boy, introduced to the single greatest movie franchise of all time 16 years ago in a galaxy far, far away. The theatre was dine-in and I ordered chicken tenders, the black 9-year-old me’s delicatessen of choice.

When the opening crawl went up and the music started, we all clapped. The energy was heavy and emotional. It a was serious thing for most of us there. And as we all watched, intently focused, for the next two hours and change, it delivered. This was the Star Wars we all knew and loved. John Boyega delivered in a big way, with our first introduction to a helmet off, 100 percent human being Storm Trooper in the entire history of the films. He was quick, he was funny, and he brought a sense of reality to the character that the everyman can easily relate to on all levels.

Daisy Ridley does a lot with very little, even from the beginning of the film. Scenes that could fall flat from a lack of dialogue shine as she fully commits to character, her emotions bleeding off screen. The way that she can convey everything you need to know by just being is a sign that she will be a force in Hollywood and especially this Star Wars series. Oscar Isaac is every bit the maverick pilot that we are familiar with in this galaxy as Poe Dameron. He’s full of charisma and heart. And the changing of the guard, as we see original trilogy characters, Han Solo, Chewie, and Leia usher in a new class of personalities into the Star Wars universe is written and directed perfectly by JJ Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan.

The most complex character by far, in my opinion, is this movie’s villain, Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver. It’s revealed that he's the son of Han Solo and Leia, making him the grandson of Darth Vader. It’s clear that Kylo, born Ben Solo, wants to follow in Vader’s footsteps after being seduced to the dark side of the force by Supreme Leader Snoke. Snoke only appears in hologram form, but it seems that he’s still very much a raw talent, struggling with the force in ways a true master wouldn’t. Especially in a way that makes it easy for Rey, the other force-sensitive character in the film, to make short work of an injured Kylo Ren in an epic lightsaber duel finale. Even though he murders his own father in this film, there seems to be something about Ren’s character that is still so unsure of himself and the shoes that he’s determined to fill.

Story (and new characters) aside, the greatest things about The Force Awakens are atmospheric. The sets are beautiful, the practical effects are jaw dropping, and the CGI that we do see is tastefully done and doesn’t take you out of the mindset that everything you see on screen could be, and possibly is, real. This palpability is what the prequels missed and JJ Abrams, Disney, and LucasFilm has spared no expense to bring it back full force in this movie. Also, the score by John Williams is a blend of the unforgettable themes that we love from the original films and all new music, breathtakingly scored over months during the editing process. Williams added new character themes for our protagonists and baddies, as well as compositions that back up (what will be) some of our favorite battle scenes for years to come.

All in all, I left the theatre a happy black boy. I’m going to watch it at least three or four more times before I can digest everything that has happened to the galaxy in the 30 plus years that it’s been away, but on the first watch, I was completely satisfied. And if you’re a fan of the franchise or a newbie looking to get your feet wet, I can guarantee that you will be, too.

May the force be with you.