[ Warning: SPOILERS ]
My name is Bob. I am 36 years old (for a few more days). I am a Star Wars fan, but not a fanatic. In other words, I don’t wear costumes, but I’ll tune in for anything originating in a galaxy far, far away. After a childhood watching the movies and playing with the toys, I waited in line to watch the prequels. I was excited to see something new. And like so many others, I grew to loathe the prequels for their many obvious faults, though I still remember how giddy I was at my first view of Yoda wielding a light saber.
A childhood of Star Wars ups tempered by an adolescence of Star Wars downs meant that I went to the movies on Thursday night with a hint of hesitation. I can’t imagine the weight on the shoulders of JJ Abrams at having to pick up the torch that had been reduced to embers. But I can say, with certainty, that I liked* the new movie. Sorry, I bumped the asterisk key there, let’s try that again:
I liked* the movie.
I enjoyed* the movie?
It’s a good* movie.
I’m pretty sure I smiled through the whole thing. It felt like I was home again, like a piece of my childhood had been returned to me. Of course, the most likely reason is that I had just watched Episode IVVVI.
In a bit of unexpected episodic math, The Force Awakens is proof that 7=4+5+6
The film was derivative. Entirely void of an original thought.
Yet it was perfect.
If you saw the film (and if you’re reading this, I’m sure you have), you know this to be true.
Young hero finds droid with information critical to the rebellion (whoops, I mean resistance). And with the help of a wily old veteran who doesn’t survive the film, returns the droid to Leia, who then sends out a squadron of fighters to take on the oversized battle station, the home of the empire (whoops, I mean First Order), which has but a single identified weakness. Along the way, there is a startling revelation of a father/son relationship. Before the attack on the station can be successful, a smuggler (Han was filling multiple roles en route to a huge payday) and his Wookiee friend have to set charges on the shield generator to allow the attack to be successful… the villain is a conflicted and troubled mess who answers to a hologram… it’s all in there, plus a hundred more. Personally, I was just happy to see the return of some decent intergalactic bar music.
But I’ll say it again, it was perfect.
JJ Abrams had a nearly impossible task – restoring faith in a franchise that was mismanaged and exploited. I wouldn’t want that job. I had my own notions of what I wanted the plot to include. The world can rejoice that my ideas won’t see the light of day. Never in my life would I have thought to repackage a movie that had already been made, supplementing it with key elements of two other movies that had already been made, and presented it as something new. But I believe it’s exactly what needed to be done.
To borrow a phrase I saw in another review, The Force Awakens is a greatest hits album. And a good one at that.
But the film’s greatest strength – it’s complete lack of original thought – is also it’s greatest weakness and the cause of my heart’s hesitation.
I’ll say it one more time before I’m completely accused of being a killjoy – I smiled the whole time. This film was perfect, exactly what it needed to be. Every moment served to awaken the childhood excitement of fans and fanatics, all while introducing a new generation to a classic story. I loved almost every bit of the casting (even the CGI Snoke has Gollum at the helm). I loved the fact that it didn’t look like I was watching a cartoon. I loved the music. I think they held the shot on Luke for about 5 seconds too long at the end, but that’s to be expected… I mean, it’s LUKE!? Smiles, smiles, and more smiles.
But because it is the first of three, I have to ask: What happens next?
Will this trilogy consist only in borrowed thought?
That could work. Maybe in episode VIII we find out the surprise identity of Finn’s family while the new Jedi folk begin their training, and then in IX we find out the surprise identity of Rey’s family after she’s thawed from a block of carbonite. Maybe by IX they’ll have rebuilt the scary planet base thing and we’ll meet the long lost cousins of the Ewoks as Rey throws a lightning-happy Snoke into a pit, leading up to Kylo Ren’s funeral pyre. Maybe. I’ll still buy a ticket. And I’ll probably smile the whole time.
My greateset fear going into Episode VII was the expected lack of authentic storytelling. That fear has simply been pushed back one movie, hence my current inner turmoil.
Despite my fears, I am thankful to JJ Abrams for The Force Awakens. I am thankful because, for just one night, I was able to put aside the awful prequels and enjoy a stunning vision of an old galaxy far, far away.