Caught a showing of THE FORCE AWAKENS tonight, which marks my second time seeing it. I enjoyed it in a slightly different manner this time, in that I was able to pay attention to more of the details, instead of being happily 100% absorbed in the tale unfolding on the screen.
John Scalzi has a good review that encapsulates a lot of my feelings — especially going in the first time, when I was still slightly terrified that it still turn out to be a clusterfuck of a film like the prequel trilogy.
I do disagree with Scalzi’s assertion that THE FORCE AWAKENS is just a good film, and not a great one. J.J. Abrams and the writers did a fantastic job at capturing the feel of the original trilogy. The reintroduction of Han, Leia, and Luke was done in a natural way, which acknowledged that time had passed and people had changed, but in believable and interesting way. They weren’t just shoehorned in to introduce the new cast. Speaking of the new cast: they were phenomenal, especially Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey. She’s very much in the Luke Skywalker tradition, except less whiny and a lot more independent (at the beginning of the film, she is a scavenger on a desert planet who lives by herself, and who beats the shit out of people who try to take her things). The villain of the piece, Kylo Ren, definitely hearkens back to Darth Vader, in both a figurative and literal way, without simply being Vader 2.0. I’ll be curious to see where both his and Rey’s characters go in later installments. (Side note: the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account is damned amusing (but spoiler-y).)
I won’t go into the plot, but I’ve read some complaints that it is too similar to A NEW HOPE. It’s a takeon the Hero’s Journey, like the original was, with some similar locations. (For more Hero’s Journeys, see also: THE MATRIX, THE HUNGER GAMES, and Moses.) While they do share some parallel themes, it’s not like THE FORCE AWAKENS is a shot-for-shot remake of the original.
If I have one quibble with the story, it’s that I’m a little unclear on the political make-up of the galaxy in this new era. There is a new Republic, and also a Resistance movement, both of whom seem to be fighting against the First Order (AKA the new Empire). It seems a little needlessly convoluted, but it’s not enough to bother me. Honestly, I’m just happy that people didn’t spend half the film having politicians debate and moralize like they did in the prequels.
What makes THE FORCE AWAKENS great, I think, is that, aside from being an exciting and well-made movie, it’s captured the public’s imagination in a way that hasn’t happened, really, since A NEW HOPE came out nearly forty years. People are seeing it multiple times, blathering about it, like me, to each other constantly, and a shit-ton of merchandise is being sold everywhere. It’s Star Wars fever again, which I was as surprised to learn as anyone that I am not immune to. I thought that ship had sailed years ago, after a terrible trilogy of films and an ever-increasing shitty bunch of books.
That’s probably the highest compliment I can pay THE FORCE AWAKENS. It made me love Star Wars again.
1 In my head it is and always will be just STAR WARS, not A NEW HOPE. But when talking about the numerous movies, that can get a little confusing. So A NEW HOPE it is, albeit reluctantly.