I can solidly state that Star Wars: The Force Awakens includes nearly everything a Star Wars fan loved about the Original Trilogy (1977), while leaving out much of what was problematic about the Prequel Trilogy (1999).
In many ways, The Force Awakens feels a tad like a remake or reboot of the first film, 1977’s A New Hope. At its heart — during the new and dark time in which it takes place, the new characters very literally represent just that — a new hope and much needed new energy to fight the antagonists we face: The First Order, a dastardly remnant of the failed Galactic Empire. Little guys versus well-armed baddies? Definitely familiar territory, but here and now, 38 years after the debut of the original films, that’s a good thing.
It’s good because it feels familiar, which is what we wanted — what most of geekdom has longed for after the relatively cold vibe of the Prequel Trilogy. The familiarity extends to spaceships, blasters, and even lightsaber battles, which again, all feel great while being new — very new. Many of the characters in what I’m dubbing the Post-Rebellion Trilogy have certain skill sets that the storytelling plays to directly, which is important because it makes their physical and personal conflicts feel authentic. Put another way, these people feel far more real than the archetypes we experienced over and over again in the Prequel Trilogy. Their relationships are nuanced and far, far away from the antiseptic platitudes of *love* exchanged between Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman’s Padme Amidala. These writers and actors understand that liking someone is not the same as loving someone; and that even in an epic space opera fairy tale, loving someone can be messy. Viewers need not fear the specter of a wooden wedding a la Attack of the Clones here.
The direction and production of The Force Awakens was impressive. And that’s not me being a fanboy. It’s important to note that I’ve never been a huge fan of director J.J. Abrams. His TV show Alias had great bones, but fell apart all too early and LOST never made sense to me, even going so far as to infuriate me when it wasted my time by killing off characters the very episode after exploring their back stories in annoyingly excruciating detail. And the smoke monster? C’mon! Let’s not even get me started on the abomination that was Star Trek (2009). I know that many, including the general consensus of geekdom, would disagree with some of these opinions (heresy!!). But as a black, left-handed Guyanese-American Catholic, in Boulder, CO, I’m used to being a minority. The reason I bring this up is because I had to overcome all of my J.J. Abrams issues when it comes to composing the next sentence:
J.J. Abrams made quite the movie. The production values of the film, the set-pieces, acting. and the blocking/staging were all put together very well. Director J.J. Abrams gives viewers A LOT of much-needed Millennium Falcon eye candy, proving that not only is it “the fastest hunka-junk in the galaxy,” but also one of the toughest. More than anything, the acting in this film needs to be praised. While Fisher and Hamill moved into relative obscurity over the last 30+ years when compared to Star Wars co-star Harrison Ford, the two actors know these characters well and they do them more than justice. Ford does steal the show but only just; he doesn’t run away with it thanks to the meaningful performances from franchise newcomers Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. This could be the best all around acting in a Star Wars film to date. That statement certainly stands (and is emphasized) for anything on the big screen from Lucasfilm since the 21st century began.
There are some plot questions and there is some “wait-what was was that?” going on in The Force Awakens, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that Star Wars is not only back, but back in a way that can both invigorate the fan base for quite some time while also satiating them with a robust film. Unlike the cliff-hanger focused Maze Runner, Hunger Games, and Divergent stories of late, The Force Awakens concludes in a truly satisfying way. There are questions, yes, but that’s a necessary evil of any good serialized content. While I’m sure I’d love to see Episode VIII tomorrow, the newly introduced storylines and characters leave me wanting to ponder The Force Awakens for a bit rather than being left in a position where I’m begging to know what’s next.
But I want to know what’s next.
I tweet @DwayneD.