The idea of writing a Force Awakens review is pretty intimidating. I don’t make a habit of writing reviews, because I don’t have the time, mostly, but also because when it comes to things such as film, books, food, etc., how one feels about the given topic is very subjective. And I’m very careful about which discussions of subjective topics I participate in, because it’s not too long before someone starts to get all high and mighty with their “expertise” on why someone should like something or not. It’s like telling someone they shouldn’t like a particular flavor of ice cream, or a song because it isn’t academically complex. Screw all that.
Anyway, yeah, usually I don’t write reviews. But, I’m making an exception, because I’m so passionate about Star Wars [the whole franchise, no italics]. Well, it’s not just Star Wars that I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about amazing representations of good vs. evil. It’s a big part of my books. It’s what, in the end, is what we all more or less contribute to in the world, to whatever degree, right?
I guess that’s what it comes down to for me. The original trilogy displayed good vs. evil beautifully, among other things, and while the prequel trilogy was supposed to add to that with context, (and by nature of a prequel, additional exposition), I don’t think it added that much to the power of the franchise. I think that’s why the prequel trilogy fell flat for so many. It felt like a cash grab to many, with forced and contrived elements.
So, here we are, 32 years on after Return of the Jedi, and around 10 years after Revenge of the Sith. As I write this, it is Sunday, 12/20/15. When I looked a few hours ago, The Force Awakens had grabbed the top domestic box office record with a total of about $238 million.. About $40,000,000 higher than the next highest film. I don’t think that’s just blind desperation for nostalgia. I think the film is resonating because the tremendously unique Star Wars struggle between good vs. evil has been picked back up, dusted off, and continued.
!! SPOILERS BELOW !!
Force Awakens Review!
*** MANY SPOILERS BELOW ***
As most of us know, the film is being received very positively, but there are some understandable concerns being raised. There are only a few from what I can tell, though, and they mostly center around some of the plot elements from the original trilogy being recycled to some extent. Most notably, the Starkiller base, which is essentially a way-more-powerful Death Star. But think of how little that has to do with the story. The focus is on the characters in episode VII. New and old. Where it should be.
Back to the Death Star on steroids, my initial gut feeling about it was that it was lazy. But after having had a few days to assimilate the whole deal, I think it was absolutely intentional. I think that while JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, Lawrence Kasdan, etc., wanted to bring in new acting blood and perpetuate the story, I believe some of the familiar plot pieces were meant to show the audience that this new trilogy was as far removed from the prequel trilogy, and simultaneously, as closely associated with the original trilogy, as possible. This makes sense from a chronological point of view, as well as aesthetic and thematic point of view.
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren is superb. His interrogation of Rey and interaction with Han, show us how close we all are to the allure of our own dark side. Whether it was the barrier of Sidious’ exaggerated wrinkles, Vader’s suit, or the red and black Zabrak face of Darth Maul, there was always that line of separation that kept the dark side at a safe distance from our real lives and kept us from considering that we could ever be capable of such alien and foreign darkness. In addition to his sincere and genuine acting, Driver’s relatively mundane face and hair help bring the evil of the dark side a little closer to home. Also, the poor fella wants to be like grandpa. Aww!
John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey, and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, all are fun to watch and are easy to invest in emotionally. The use of “unknown” actors in these roles, as with the main roles in the original trilogy, paid off once again.
As for Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher reprising their roles as Han and Leia, I think they saddled back up fairly well. It was nice to see the chemistry between the actors perpetuated after all these years. It was there. And while I give a little more credit to Carrie Fisher, for being a bit more believable in her return and her role with being a General in the resistance, Harrison Ford showed Han doing what Han would probably have been doing 32 years later. He shows back up still doing what he wants, the way he wants to do it. But even so, his subconscious is still noticeably driven by his love for Leia. You can see him almost hesitate when he’s thinking of shouting out to his and Leia’s son, Ben/Kylo Ren, but he didn’t–not just because Leia wanted him to bring their son home, but like his return to assist Luke at the end of A New Hope, he knew it was the right thing to do. This led to his demise, but in his death, at the hands of Ben/Kylo ren, he went out spectacularly, with his touching Ben’s face almost as powerful as his “I know,” to Leia, so many years ago.
Last and obviously not least, we have Luke, who we saw in the last two minutes of the entire film. Now, while I can understand the minority of people displeased with the minimized involvement of Luke in the plot of episode VII, I can only direct them towards the entire original trilogy if they want to see something that features Luke. He was the hero of *that* trilogy. But make *no* mistake… He has been set up to be extremely involved in episode VIII, in whatever training of new Jedi I can only assume he’ll be doing. And I for one, will obviously, of course, definitely welcome an extremely Luke-heavy episode VIII and/or episode IX.
So in summation, episode VII was exactly what it needed to be. It needed to be new and old. It was superficial in areas to fulfill some immediate needs from the fanbase, while at the same time, planting some seeds of deep down, dark unknowns, such as the questions surrounding Snoke, or all that has happened with Luke. It needed to linger a bit on what made us all fall in love with this ultimate display of good vs. evil, while pushing forward to a new story. It needed to let us know that it was not, at all, another arbitrary prequel trilogy, but a trilogy for the fans, and for the future.
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