Happy New Year, my friends! 2016 is here (can you believe it?)! I’m excited for the year ahead and have greatly enjoyed the year behind. Peace out 2015.
Like many of the rest of you (I’m assuming), I also went and checked out the new Star Wars movie this holiday season. And like many of you I have opinions about it. Some spoilers ahead so for those of you who haven’t ventured to see the latest cultural phenomenon you proceed at your own peril. You have been warned.
Star Wars is a product of my childhood and a thing of nostalgia. I remember watching it on TV when I was maybe 8 or 9 and asking my dad what it was. He was shocked at my lack of Star Wars knowledge and proceeded to make me watch the remaining bit of movie and sometime soon after bought the whole set on VHS (yeah, we were that cool). We still have that VHS set and may or may not have pulled those out to rewatch Episodes 4, 5 and 6. Perfect timing at the prequel trilogy coming out soon after that and Star Wars became a thing for awhile. I saw the movies, read a few book trilogies, you know the geek track.
So what I’m saying is that I like and enjoy Star Wars. And say what you will about Episodes 1,2,3, I like them, but yes, Episodes 4,5,6 are better. Granted. Entertainment Weekly posted a ranking and for the most part I agree. The Empire Strikes Back is definitely the best movie of the six. Which all leads up to my underwhelming assessment of The Force Awakens: it was great, action-packed, and entirely something we’ve seen before.
I know. I know. I didn’t love the movie. I am struggling to understand how the movie is getting outrageously positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, but at the same time don’t know exactly what I was expecting. Maybe I had too high expectations, maybe the movie is a rehashed cop out, maybe it’s the best thing ever, maybe I’m too critical. All valid.
May the Force Be With You
It’s not that the movie was bad. It was entertaining and well-paced. A great mix of nostalgia while introducing a fun, new cast of characters. The movie didn’t exceed my expectations, it simply met them.
“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it? The Dark side, and the Light.”
We begin in a desert landscape, not dissimilar to Tatooine, in Jakku. Here we see desolation in Star Destroyer relics and meet hope with BB-8 and Rey. From there, a set of Resistance and First Order events propel Rey, BB-8 and Stormtrooper Finn into the adventure of their lives. They meet legends Chewbacca and Han Solo, General Leia and pilot Poe Dameron. They face the dark side of the force through the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren. All in a desperate search for Luke Skywalker (who luckily left a map behind). A clean, straightforward story line that brings our characters across the galaxy and straight into the middle of the fight between light and dark.
The end comes quickly with a cool lightsaber battle and another fight against time to destroy a Death Star Planet thing. And of course, find Luke Skywalker. The movie successfully set up the new story line, smoothly passed the torch and hit all the right beats. However, that doesn’t mean all that happened without some concerns along the way.
The Problem of Kylo Ren
My main issue was the rehashed story, however, I also recognize the movie serves as a bridge not just from an old trilogy into a new one but introduces an entirely new generation into the power of Star Wars. And, I’m not denying other films don’t suffer from rehashed storylines (oh hello there, Return of the Jedi), I’m just saying this one seemed particularly unoriginal. I also was laughing a bit that the rebellion destroyed a bigger Death Star, Starkiller Base, with a few well placed bombs and like 7 fighter pilots. That thing was the size of a planet. It was a planet. I mean that just makes the First Order seem completely incompetent and Starkiller Base structurally unsound on a profound level.
Flaws also came for me in the form of Kylo Ren, AKA wannabe Darth Vader. He was the scary villain of the First Order serving Supreme Leader Snoke. Or maybe not so scary. Ren came across as an entitled wannabe darksider who was really just pretending. Or is he? As Emo Kylo Ren on Twitter hits with hilarious accuracy, maybe he’s a bit of a misunderstood pushover with family issues. Or maybe he’s being set up for a redemption arc. Or maybe he really is as big and bad as Darth Vader. In any case, it fell flat for me. He just wasn’t believable or maybe was just too comically whiny with severe anger issues. Poor Han and Leia.
My Hero Rey
So what works in the movie? Hands down the cast of new characters. They brought energy, life and left just enough questions to get us excited for their own Star Wars adventure. From the very first shot of the film, with Poe Dameron being the bad ass pilot he is, I was immediately on board. Poe brought the right amount of swaggering nice guy as the ace rebel fighter pilot who refuses to be knocked down. BB-8 also helps in being adorably endearing. If BB-8 loves Poe, I love Poe.
We meet Finn as the conflicted stormtrooper who just wants to do the right thing. A reluctant hero. Who also is effective comedic relief hitting all the right beats. He’s the vulnerable one who we can all get behind and respond to. Because none of us are perfect, and Finn for sure isn’t perfect, but he does want to be good. And that definitely counts.
And then we get to Rey, the true hero of the movie. Daisy Ridley is excellently cast as abandoned Rey who is left by her family on Jakku and is mysteriously strong in the force. She is an important component in this whole new saga and plays it well. She’s lonely, but resourceful. Kind-hearted, but tough. She’s a scavenger, pilot, mechanic and potential new Jedi(?). Her chemistry with the other characters, such as Han Solo, BB-8, Finn and even Kylo Ren is magnetic and entirely believable as a crucial wrench in whatever comes next.
Then of course, the nostalgia tour was also well done. Han Solo was excellent and Harrison Ford deserves so much credit. He sold the grizzled smuggler and saddened father, while also making his estrangement with Leia all the more compelling. Carrie Fisher also looked excellent and is still an important figure in the rebellion as she leads the search for her missing brother. Leia and Han’s relationship is a cornerstone of the Star Wars canon and they continued to sell it forty years later. R2-D2 and C-3PO also made a comeback. Chewbacca had an awesome reunion and who can deny the power of the Millenium Falcon. Old meets new. New meets old.
I get it. This movie was a set-up for the new trilogy and successfully does that (even if originality goes to the wayside). New characters are fun, fresh with just the right bit of nostalgia with Han, Chewie, Leia and Luke returning. Go see it. Then rewatch the rest of the series just for a reminder of the magic of the force.
In any case, Rey is totally Luke Skywalker’s daughter, right? Or is she Obi Wan’s granddaughter? In either case, Luke Skywalker totally knows. Right? RIGHT?