I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to review Star Wars: The Force Awakens because, honestly, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to check my emotions enough to articulate intelligent expressions of, well, anything, let alone objective criticisms of it as an artistic piece of cinema. See, I consider myself a full-fledged member of the Star Wars Generation—one of the heartily mocked masses who grew up in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, during the run of the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983), and, thusly, anything Star Wars is not only sentimental, but downright soul-enveloping.
And, you have to understand, we’ve been burned once already. Back in 1999, the first of the “prequels,” Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released, leading to much excitement and anticipation, followed by two more terrible prequels, sorrow, disappointment and heartache. We suffered through those three torturous prequels that had none of the spirit, sense of adventure, fun or humor of the original trilogy, they were merely hollow shells—pretty to look at but empty inside—and we cried digital tears for years, never really getting over it (say the words “Jar Jar” to some of us and you’re liable to get punched—or worse).
So it was very easy to be pessimistic when I heard the news that Disney had purchased the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas in 2012 and was planning on bringing the movies back AGAIN, with the first one hitting theatres in 2015. I was skeptical of Disney’s involvement, assuming they were only interested in the marketing opportunities (and those fears were not assuaged in the months leading up to this film’s release), skeptical of the fact that Lucas himself walked away completely once the sale was completed, and would have zero creative input in any of the new films, and I was additionally skeptical when I heard Disney was planning on churning out a new Star Wars movie every year—sure to run what was once a magical, innovative and exciting moviegoing phenomenon into the ground through marketplace over-saturation. Right?
Well, what do you know. How fast can you turn a pessimistic, cynical, distrusting 45-year old into a 13-year old kid with wide eyes, a grin and a renewed faith in movies? Let’s see…I probably was hooked by the second scene.
Not only didn’t Disney ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but they, and director/co-writer J.J. Abrams found a way to not only awaken my sentimental attachment to Star Wars but build a new excitement for new characters and new storylines and actually make me look forward to future installments. How on earth did this happen?
I’m not going to tell you anything about the plot or tell you much about the movie at all, because part of why I was able to enjoy it so much was because I was able to avoid all talk, especially spoilers, before I saw it (I highly recommend, if you plan on seeing this movie, to go SOONER RATHER THAN LATER) and being a blank slate made it so much more enjoyable. But what I will say is that all my fears were misplaced. Director Abrams knew exactly what he needed to do and he did it. All the mistakes from the prequels—the lack of humanity and humor and storytelling and adventure and too much emphasis on technology and lack of connection to the original trilogy—are gone. Instead, Star Wars: The Force Awakens plays, almost note-for-note, the beats of the original movies, so much so that there are times it’s a little too on the nose, but, trust me, I’d rather have it be too familiar than not. This is a world that we know and love and we want to be here. If there was ever a moment where I felt it was too on-the-nose, I stopped and asked myself, what’s wrong with that? I love it! I want more!
And so it goes with every moment of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It is the perfect adventure, the perfect science fiction romp through space, the perfect callback to the most perfect movie memories of our childhood, the perfect bridge between old and new, it is everything we could have hoped for.
And, objectively, as a piece of cinema, you really can’t ask for more. It’s got a compelling story that leaves you wanting more (of course, you might be a little lost if you haven’t seen the original trilogy, but, really, who hasn’t), it’s got state-of-the art CGI that will wow your senses, but Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan manage to keep the vibe still old-school enough to give it that nostalgic feel—a truly unique blend of old and new without being corny. All the production values are first-rate, from the costumes to the production design to the John Williams score that will bring more than a few tears to more than a few eyes—perhaps our greatest film composer reunited with his greatest composition, seriously, what could be better.
And the actors—all of them—from the old to the new, all are great, particularly Daisy Ridley, who clearly will be doing the heavy lifting in this new Disney Star Wars universe, and she seems fully capable. The new droid, BB-8, is a pure joy, and there isn’t an Ewok or Binks anywhere to be found. They truly got everything right.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens may not be the most important thing in the world, but, in our little corner of the galaxy, those of us who care about such things sure are happy that it’s here—finally.