Just so we’re clear, I went into Star Wars already sick of it. It’s all I’ve heard about the last 2 months from friends and co-workers, not to mention all the products that have Star Wars on them. I have a low threshold for harassment. Yesterday in preparation, we marathoned the original 3 movies and after that I could have waited another year for The Force Awakens to come out. I did not intend to like The Force Awakens (and might have been harbouring some resentment), but I did intend to review it fairly – it had to succeed as a film on its own merits. .
Let’s not forget how people raved about The Phantom Menace when it first came out too (after an almost equal amount hype). Side note – I’m going to try to avoid spoilers here, but if you’re really worried about that, don’t read my review until after you watch the movie – that’s what this is intended for
Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a rag-tag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.
It’s pretty easy to see where a film goes wrong, there’s usually something to point to, especially if you’ve read up on film making at all. It’s way harder to see what went right. So why did The Force Awakens succeed where The Phantom Menace failed? I couldn’t tell you – smarter film students than me are probably trying to work that out and then making their own blockbusters. But simply put, The Force Awakens avoids the pitfalls that lesser movies in the franchise fell into. There was no Jar Jar Binks. There was no convoluted Trade blockade (or whatever). And, most importantly, J.J. Abrams didn’t feel the need to call back to every fan favorite in the entire original 3 movies. (Yoda, for example, was not mentioned once)
That said, The Force Awakens did not hesitate to borrow/reuse whatever it needed from the other movies and make it better. There was a terrifying enemy weapon, worse than the Death Star. There was a goofy droid who could only be understood by some characters but not the audience, just like R2D2. There was a sand planet. I could go on but you get the idea – the things that made the original trilogy are back and they’re even better. It feels like the same galaxy but still fresh. One of the most important ways it felt real was J.J. Abrams actually wasn’t afraid to change things to suit the larger plot and characters, then he did it.
Of course, every possible technical aspect of this movie was nigh on perfect. Its pacing was exact. The dialogue was witty and engaging. The acting and casting was great. I loved the visual effects. And it all made sense – all of it. We saw Han and Leia and so many of the original characters and they all felt real. There was the impression that they had lives outside of the movies and those lives had continued after the credits had rolled. Film has come a long way since 1977, it’s nice to see what we can do with today’s technology and values. (For example, I might be wrong, but I think there were more female characters in The Force Awakens than all 6 other movies combined.) My favorite thing about The Force Awakens was the way it felt like it was actually a big galaxy with all kinds of different life. There were actual aliens beyond CGI humanoids. There was culture that looked like it came from a melting pot of vastly different life forms. There was a complexity there, not to mention a feast for the eyes.
So is Star Wars worth seeing? Yes, absolutely. I may actually go see this again in the theatre, there’s so much more I want to take in. Going to The Force Awakens reminded me of how a trilogy of sci-fi films could become a religion. There was so much to live up to, so many bars it had to hit and ways it could have failed; the fact that this could be done at all is impressive.
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