I thought it was a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. A magical power holding together good and evil? The Dark Side? The Light? The crazy thing is, it’s true. All of it. The Jedi? They’re real.
There are some things in life that are indescribable. One of the most endearing effects that a movie can have on us is how they make us feel, for that is how we truly measure what they mean to us and how much we enjoy them as an audience. Maybe that sounds a little corny, but being corny is one of the time-honored traditions in Hollywood. The frenzy that surrounds the release of a new Star Wars movie is another one.
As I sit here and at long-last share my opinion on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it’s important to keep this in mind. I will analyze and critique the film to the best of my ability, but one thing I could never do justice to is describe the overwhelming feeling of joy I had while once more returning to a galaxy far, far away. It’s more than just nostalgia or the emergence of my inner-child. It’s the kind of feeling that takes place when you are experiencing something you know that you’ll remember forever, and so I could never accurately convey to you in words what that’s like. You just have to live it for yourself.
I lived it. I still have the smile on my face to prove it.
Set 30 years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the new generation of Star Wars begins in familiar fashion. The villainous First Order is terrorizing the galaxy and attempting to establish complete and utter dominance. Led by Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren, they will stop at nothing until they finish the work of the fallen Galactic Empire. The only group willing to oppose them is the Resistance, a faction of freedom fighters who remember the oppression of the Empire all too well. As always, our main characters aren’t principal figures on either side, but rather unlikely heroes who are thrust into the action by force or by choice.
We have Finn, a disillusioned Stormtrooper whose questions about his place in the galaxy spur him to make a drastic change, and we have Rey, a scavenger on the planet of Jakku who reluctantly answers the call to adventure, albeit with much enthusiasm. There’s also Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the Resistance, his friendly little droid named BB-8 and of course more menacing First Order members, including General Hux and Captain Phasma. And yes, all of our favorite heroes are back for the ride, including Han Solo and Chewbacca.
Despite the fact that The Force Awakens has been out for almost a month now, that’s about all I’m going to cover plot-wise. There are always those holdouts who wait as long as possible before catching a movie in the theater and I don’t want to risk spoiling anything for them. What I will say is if the plot points I did mention sound strikingly similar to A New Hope, well, that’s on purpose. One of the biggest complaints about this movie is that it’s basically just a ripoff of Star Wars’ original outing and it doesn’t showcase anything that we haven’t seen before. While it is certainly easy to pinpoint certain aspects of The Force Awakens and make connections to certain tropes and archetypes previously utilized in the franchise, I find this gripe to be ultimately shortsighted. The ones bashing this film for not being original enough are the same ones who tore apart the prequels for distancing themselves too far away from what made the original movies great.
And to be fair, it is mainly the internet trolls who can’t seem to get past this. The general consensus from fans is mostly positive. They recognize that J.J. Abrams wanted to make a film that reminds us of why we all love Star Wars in the first place and that the best way to do that was to return to the roots of the franchise. There are sections of the plot where a little more creativity would’ve been nice, but overall I found the faithfulness this movie showed to the original trilogy to be highly refreshing. The CGI is a point of contention as well. It isn’t horrible in my opinion, but for the budget that this movie had I think there’s no reason why it couldn’t have been better. The score has been heavily scrutinized as well for not being as memorable as John Williams’ more iconic themes, but that’s like saying that Paul McCartney’s most recent music doesn’t hold up to his work with The Beatles on Abbey Road. It’s just an unrealistic expectation and I found the score to be appropriately poignant and rousing.
For all it’s supposed shortcomings, there is no doubt in my mind that The Force Awakens knocked one important aspect completely out of the park, and that is the characters. I said in my last Star Wars article that this movie would be remembered not by whether or not it was fun to see old faces again (it was), but whether the new additions could stand out and steal the show. And they absolutely do. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac all do phenomenal work in this film, clearly capitalizing on a script that injects our heroes with humor, doubt and bravery, which are all classic values of protagonists in this saga. Boyega and Isaac especially allow their natural comic talent to shine through, while Ridley is a revelation as Rey. It’s about time that Star Wars had a kick ass female hero. As for Adam Driver, he is the most emotionally complex antagonist I’ve seen from this franchise, and that manifests into a character who is simultaneously horrifying and vulnerable.
Maybe J.J. Abrams didn’t break a ton of new ground in his attempt to revitalize one of the world’s most beloved properties, but he satisfied my expectations and gave me everything that I want in a Star Wars movie. While it may be just a good film, to me it was great because of the personal attachment I feel with this franchise. Maybe that wasn’t the case for you, and that’s okay. Like I said, I could never truly articulate all of my feelings into words.
All I know is that I’ve seen The Force Awakens twice now, and I’m still smiling.
Jesse’s Rating: A-