I was filled with trembling hope and uncertain fear as I settled in my theater seat, wondering what I would see over the next few hours. Was this going to be a repeat of the prequels I had seen with my former colleagues so long ago? The opening theme did not reassure me, nor did the opening crawl. I’d seen them before, after all, attached to movies I loathed.
And I’d only ever seen the original trilogy on my iPad screen. The idea of a movie of their stature on the large screen seemed almost ludicrous. I didn’t trust J. J. Abrams to do the job right, either.
Still, if it turned out badly, it would be a final end to my journey through the Star Wars series.
And I got more than I bargained for.
This review is full of spoilers, y’all.
How do I even begin with this thing?
First of all, I love the two new protagonists. I love that Finn is a former Stormtrooper, and that Stormtroopers in general are fleshed out more. I don’t mind that they’re no longer all Fett clones, since if that were the case only one good biowarfare strike would kill them all. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the Empire/First Order has more sense than we do with regards to bananas.
And I love Rey so much. Yes, there is some of Luke in her with regards to the Force, but there is a lot that’s just simply pure Rey: her determination, for one. It’s raw and real, while Luke, at the very beginning, was far more untested. I know that people will argue that Rey can do too much too easily, that she’s far too versatile and competent to feel like a real character to them—and that’s their prerogative to feel that way. I myself am simply going to enjoy having a female character who kicks ass. (And doesn’t have to be put into a bikini or have her clothing slashed up to reveal her belly.)
There’s actual chemistry between the protagonists. I don’t know if it’s a romantic relationship (yay!) or a very close friendship (yay!) but I enjoy watching them interact with one another—and interact with the familiar characters from the original series.
Oh Han. Oh Leia. That wonderful, beautiful theme when they’re together—John Williams has really outdone himself, and I mean that literally. He’s outdone his younger selves in the complexity and deft weaving of melodies—both the one who orchestrated the original series and the one who did the prequels. (If nothing else, the prequels had fantastic soundtracks.)
The first glimpse we got of Han Solo in the original series, he was just another smuggler looking out for number one. By the time that series ended, he was something far more, and had clearly stepped into the light. It’s not surprising that he and Leia had a kid together.
But that kid…
…that kid does have an awful lot of characterization for a Star Wars villain. Usually they don’t get this much unless they’re Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back or, well, Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith. We see him without his mask, musing to his grandfather. I rather suspect his grandfather’s Force ghost (however that happened) is the influence pushing him towards the Light again.
But what caused his fall to the Dark in the first place?
Poor Han. Poor Leia. Poor Han. Poor Leia. I loved you both in the original series. The way Han goes—I was holding onto a slim hope that he would somehow survive the fall, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned from movies, it’s that gravity is the number-one killer of heroes and villains alike. Especially in Disney productions.
And realistically… I knew he was dead the moment he stepped onto that bridge to face his son. Although I had no idea he had formed a strong enough bond with old Ben to name his son after the Jedi Knight? Perhaps Luke had more influence on the naming than not… perhaps because Luke seems to be without issue.
(Or is he? Dun dun dun.)
Seeing Luke at the end was somehow amazing. I felt my journey had come full circle, like I would be satisfied if everything ended right there. And if it did, other people would gut me, so I hope it doesn’t end.
As for those who say that The Force Awakens is a rehash of A New Hope or even of the entire original trilogy, I say: fair enough. It does hold a lot of the same plot aesthetics, although the fine details differ enough that I don’t mind. The similarities do bring credence to the idea of the entire Star Wars saga as being one huge ring cycle. It makes me wonder if they’re going to break the ring?
Also: can we blame them for not taking a new change in direction? Say what one might about the prequels (and I would say a lot), they at least tried something different. Their execution failed horribly, but that doesn’t take away from the attempt at a more measured pace with a slower build-up. With The Force Awakens the studio has decided to retreat to safer grounds.
Perhaps next time they’ll have something more original on hand, now that this movie has smashed many box office records into the ground. (And also turned Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip, which Fox inexplicably decided to try running up against The Force Awakens’ opening weekend, into road chip. But perhaps they were simply using it as a sacrificial lamb.)
My favorite thing in The Force Awakens: the humor, the charm, the feelings, the characters. I was never a plot-heavy person.
My least favorite thing in The Force Awakens: the fact that Ben Solo looks like a more emo miniature Severus Snape. But at least Adam Driver acts well.
I went home after the movie, and sat down in my office and stared at the box of Imperial Assault sitting on a table. I hadn’t bothered to open it because, hey, who cares about Star Wars, am I right? It could wait.
But it couldn’t wait any longer.
I think I might have caught Star Wars fever.