After a short one paragraph review, this is a SPOILER-FILLED (and rambling) appreciation of Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
You have been warned.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
Directed by J. J. Abrams
The Force Awakens makes me hate the prequels even more than I already did. It’s a movie that makes me want to melt every copy of the prequels into one sticky, smoking, smelly lump of plastic. (and if you know me, then you know I’m fucking serious and just might be doing that pretty soon). J.J. Abrams is very good here, with his writing and direction. The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars movie in the series (except for maybe The Empire Strikes Back). Lawrence Kasdan is great here too. He didn’t write the first Star Wars. He wrote Empire (and Empire’s dialogue is light years ahead of A New Hope) But still the dialogue in The Force Awakens is freaking fantastic compared to the prequels. It’s very funny and touching. And feels old while being very new. These two guys have created an authentic Star Wars movie. It feels, at times, like a tribute to the first film. A declaration of love. I’ll have to watch it again to be sure but I’d say it’s the best movie of the year (with Mad Max: Fury Road close behind burning up the guzzoline). I loved every minute of it. However as the title suggests, I’m going to spoil the shit out it. So you can stop reading now if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Verdict: SPOILED (with love)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a distorted reflection of A New Hope. This is a reflection from a rippling pond. Clear and beautiful with a natural fun house quality that changes genders, size, scope and running order. It is Star Wars reflected on the surface of the moving water. Cool and clean and more beautiful than the original. But even as it’s completely, and immediately, recognizable, at the same time it’s a different entity altogether. Like a child is a reflection of its parents. But different.
In both films, the classic and this fresh take; A father figure allows himself to be killed by his estranged son and former pupil. A planet killing weapon is destroyed by a frontal assault… a spectacular trench run and a small team infiltrating the base and turning off the shields. In The Force Awakens the weapon is tested on the Capital of the Republic and not Alderaan like in Hope but it’s very much the same, except here it destroys the star system and we also get to see the frightened faces of the victims. As well as having the added connotation of destroying a symbol of the prequels films. Blowing it up good.
In both films, the original space opera and this adorable continuation; A hero is left on a desert planet by figure or figures unknown and SHE joins the fight against the dark side thanks to a cute little droid carrying a secret rebel/resistance blueprint. This time it’s a map. A map to a fallen star and they both get off the dead planet (This is not the droid you’re looking for) in an old garbage ship called The Millennium Falcon. But here it’s AFTER an important rebel is rescued from a painful interrogation inflicted by a helmet wearing, force wielding villain. Rescued by a reluctant anti-hero in a stormtrooper helmet. The same but different and the same but a distorted reflection but THE SAME.
All these things are out of their original order and turned inside out or folded in on themselves, where themes are out-of-place and everything’s out of whack and touching where they didn’t touch before. There’s even a cantina in this one. But this time it’s a Reggae band. And it’s familiarity is amazing. It’s fucking amazing.
I saw Star Wars Episode VII (Episode seven? It’s number FOUR to me goddamn it) on Friday afternoon at my favorite theater downtown. The place was packed. I purposely forewent any bells and whistle. Just a flat screen, no IMAX, no 3D, no glasses, no frills. A Star Wars film shouldn’t need any of that. And this one does not.
The new cast is fantastic (and pretty). The old cast is, well just that, old. But it’s great to see them again. I grew up with these guys. I wanted to be these guys. First viewing, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be the good guy hero. Squeaky clean and fearless to a fault. Then when I discovered girls and what was cool and un-cool, I wanted to be Han Solo because he was a bad-ass and he was definitely cool. And of course he got the girl and she too was a bad-ass. But in The Force Awakens, the amazing Daisy Ridley plays Rey, who is all three iconic characters at once. She really rocks the hell out of this role physically. She has an awesome screen presence.
Next there’s Adam Driver who is just as good if not better than Daisy. And he has to be the bad guy in a Star Wars film. He has to follow Darth Vader. And that’s a fairly heavy lift. But he too is a conglomeration of iconic characters. He’s a bit of Vader (not as much as you’d think). And he’s a bit of his father; Han Solo (the dead guy). He struggles with the good and the bad like his father does (Han shot first… of course, Han tries to swindle everyone he’s had dealings with, Han is a selfish bastard who couldn’t make his marriage work and was never a true part of the rebellion or his son’s life. He was just trying to get the girl and he did. Then he left and returned to smuggling, swindling his partners. (Lando was right. He is a no good swindler… but lovable. Now dead)
But Kylo Ren is the most like Luke Skywalker. He never really knew his parents. He’s a bit of whiny brat. Who never truly got the hang of the force (well not yet anyway) and yet he still tries to take over a galaxy with his master. Adam Driver brings all of this in spades. He is a very talented man. And I really liked that he doesn’t need the mask but still wears it to be like his grandfather. He’s a fan. But then my girl Rey gives him a big ass scar on the side of his face. (Put the damn mask back on, Junior. Cuz now you need that shit).
Speaking of his failed master. Remember that picture of the first read-through? Why the fuck is Mark Hamill there? He isn’t even in the movie. He has zero lines. None. But how about that ending, setting up an Empire theme for the next film: Like the training on Dagobah. But this time Yoda is Luke and Luke is Rey. A distorted reflection. And like Old Ben says that he failed with Vader, Luke fails with Kylo. And like Ben trained Luke, Luke appears to have a new pupil. A bit of Ben. A bit of Yoda. A lot of Star Wars.
And then there’s John Boyega. Yes there’s a black guy and he too is a distorted reflection of iconic characters in iconic situations. In the first movie Han and Luke pretend to be Stormtroopers to rescue Leia but they’re actually good guys in disguise. Here, my boy Finn, is a stormtrooper who turns out to be a good guy and rescues Poe, the insanely cocky but obnoxiously good pilot played by Oscar Isaac (you know like Luke was in the first movie) See what I mean?
They’re all here. They’re all Luke. They’re all Han. They’re all Leia. They’re all Vader. And they are all wonderful, three-dimensional characters in their own right but familiar like family. At one point (during my first viewing) I was sure that everyone in this movie was related. That they were all one huge extended family. They’re not. Only Kylo Ren is related to Han Solo like Luke is related to Darth Vader. But I was sure that Rey would turn out to be his sister. Like Leia is Luke’s. And it’s fucking Star Wars. It’s gonna be incestuous as fuck. (something the prequels were not. Somebody hand me a match).
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the genius offspring of the original trilogy. A child that honors his father. Surpasses her mother. That is a lot better than Return of The Jedi and demonstrably better than A New Hope (If just for the acting, pacing and the updated everything). And it only trails in my fondness for Empire. The Force Awakens is my new favorite Star Wars film. It carries the torch respectfully.
But it’s not original. None of it’s original. If this post has said anything (and it really hasn’t), it’s said that every character, every theme, every scene, every tiny bit of The Force Awakens is familiar or exactly like something from the original trilogy. AND I LOVED THAT. I really loved that. Because it had to be. It had to be this way after three barely recognizable, barely watchable, barely canon, barely bearable, toxic smelling, slowly melting, so-called prequels. We the faithful, die-hard fans, who remember seeing the first films in their first runs and every re-release since, who have suffered through three star-studded, sorry excuses for Star Wars movies. We… fucking deserve this.
So thank you again, J.J. Abrams. First for Star Trek and now for this. From the bottom of my heart, that sci-fi loving kid that lives there, and smiled through the entire movie, thanks you very much.