Warning: There may be some slight spoilers for The Force Awakens that follows. I’m keeping major ones to a minimum, but tread lightly if you want to go in fresh.
Star Wars is just one of those things that has been in my life as long as I can remember. I remember when the remastered editions came out in theaters in the 90s and me and my mom had them written on our kitchen calendar to mark the release so we could go see them. I also remember seeing all the prequels in theaters with my parents and then complaining about the prequels accordingly years later. I never really got into the Extended Universe like some and I still have to watch Clone Wars and Rebels, but I’ve always liked Star Wars.
So you can imagine that I was an apprehensive sort of hype when Disney announced that they had bought out Lucasfilm and were going to be making new Star Wars movies. I kept by the mantra of “there’s nothing Disney could do to this franchise that George Lucas didn’t already do,” but I still couldn’t help but wonder if that could be a front. With every trailer though, the anticipation grew.
Well, I’m happy to say that The Force Awakens delivers on the hype and more and made me so excited to see the next film in a year and a half.If you’ve seen A New Hope, you probably already know what the general plotline of The Force Awakens. Strangers in galaxy, including a young desert scavenger who dreams of more, are united by a droid and a wise old man to save the universe from evil. A New Hope was basically a cinematic example of The Hero’s Journey anyway, so no real complaints there. However, the characters and avenues in which The Force Awakens tells it story are the best part.
First off, The Force Awakens feels like an old school Star Wars movie. There is a decent amount of CGI, but its not entire world builds like that of the prequels. The use of practical effects and sets gives the world a lived in feeling, which is all the more important when landscapes of these worlds have remnants of the war between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
The true strength of the story lies with the characters though. While there are some old favorites along for the ride like Han Solo, Leia Organa, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO, its the new characters that truly light up the screen and emphasize that Star Wars is for everyone. Seriously… everyone. Just look around and see how diverse the cast is, down to the extras.The trio for this film is Rey, Finn and Poe Dameron, played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac respectively. Immediately from the start with his rogueish good looks and his deadpan humor, I fell in love with Isaac’s performance as the Ace Resistance pilot who could fly anything and took a Stormtrooper at face value when he was being broken out. He was this perfect confluence of a young Han Solo and Leia in A New Hope that it was hard not to declare him my Space Movie Boyfriend. Especially with the way he treats Finn and his beloved droid BB-8. Then again, it’s hard NOT to love BB-8.
Finn and Rey are truly the beating heart of this film though. Boyega’s Finn is the very definition of precious, from his initial internal conflict of serving the First Order to every excited and sad moment as he struggles to find life outside of it, ending up on a much bigger adventure along the way. Boyega plays him with such this lovely mix of uncertainty and enthusiasm that it’s hard not to love him by the time the movie is over.
Oh and Rey… Rey, Rey, Rey. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is the character I wish I had in Star Wars growing up. I’ve always been obsessed with girl characters and I feel like if I had Rey, I would have been unstoppable. Here was a complicated young woman who was lonely and self-sufficient. Who could hold her own in a fight, didn’t suddenly need rescuing, was waiting for something that might not come, and who runs away from adventure to start. Ridley is so stubborn, headstrong, and fearful in the part that it made it even stronger when she accepts her destiny full on.Of course, Star Wars is only as good as its villains and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is certainly one of the more interesting villains I’ve seen in the past few years. It definitely shows that the world of Star Wars is on the edge with Force users not really having any banner to truly train under. Where Vader was eternally intimidating and imposing with a quiet anger always below the surface, Ren seems to be trying to do his best Vader impression with a readiness to fly off the handle at any given point. It seems strange at first, but there’s one revelation that makes it all clear as to why he’s going this route. Well, part of why. It is part one of a trilogy after all. Can’t give all the game away.
It’s that impression that speaks to the core of what this new era of Star Wars is about. It’s about what happens when you find yourself a part of the stories you grew up hearing and what happens when you meet the heroes of those stories. There are a lot of parallels, but nothing is a perfect one for one. J.J. Abrams and the cast set out to forge a new path out of the groundwork of the old. The humor, the music, the character, the heart… it’s all there. It’s all alive and well. And it didn’t have to be a complete nostalgia trip to find it.