I’ve been struggling to write this review for weeks now for a number of reasons, but perhaps the biggest is because it’s STAR WARS. I mean, it’s huge! It’s a cultural phenomenon, perhaps one of the most well-known franchises in the world. It was the series that set me on the path to being a geek. “Formative” doesn’t really begin to cover it.
So putting down the words to describe how I feel about The Force Awakens seems to be an insurmountable task. It’s just so big, and there are so many things to discuss about it, and so much of it comes from who I am and what Star Wars has meant to me.
This movie comes at a point when it’s been more than 20 years since I saw the original trilogy for the first time, and ten years since I last saw a Star Wars movie in theaters (with the expectation that I would likely never do so again). When it was first announced, I was “meh” about it; given the overall disappointment with the prequels, I found it difficult to get excited for another film even though I knew George Lucas wouldn’t be involved.
And then the trailers came out.
I went from “meh” to “excited” faster than I ever have in my life. I couldn’t wait to see the movie, but at the same time, I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to my expectations (which were getting loftier by the minute, despite every effort I made to keep them manageable).
Fortunately, I shouldn’t have worried. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was easily my favorite movie from 2015, and is on par with the best of the original trilogy.
The Force Awakens takes place around 30 years after the end of the original trilogy, when the ashes of the Empire have reformed into The First Order, which has a tenuous peace with the Republic. Leia runs the Resistance, dedicated to ending the tyranny of the First Order, and she’s also looking for Luke, who vanished without a trace after the destruction of the Jedi temple. The only clue to his whereabouts is a map he left behind, and Leia has sent one of her best pilots to retrieve it.
Like the previous trilogy, we have a main trio of characters: Rey, a scavenger who’s been waiting on a desert world for her family to return; Finn, a stormtrooper having second thoughts about being part of the First Order; and Poe, the best pilot in the Resistance who’s been sent to find Luke’s map.
It’s hard to pick a favorite, because I loved all three of them so much and I could probably write a post about each of them. Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and John Boyega are all spectacular in their roles, and very deserving of all the success that comes their way because of this.
Finn (Boyega) is absolutely amazing. He’s not what you’d expect from a stormtrooper, and it’s interesting to see a glimpse, however brief, into his life within the First Order. He’s brave and sweet and hilarious, and just a joy to watch. He’s single-handedly responsible for some of my favorite moments in the entire film.
Rey is the character I’ve been waiting to see on-screen in the Star Wars world since I was eleven years old, and Daisy Ridley played her perfectly. Tough, self-sufficient, vulnerable, and determined, Rey shows more emotion with a single look than some actors do with an entire monologue. She’s absolutely fantastic and I can’t wait to see where her journey goes over the next two films.
And seeing our old favorite characters–Han, Chewie, Leia, Luke–some thirty years after we left them is alternately fantastic and bittersweet. Things haven’t gone the way you might have hoped or expected after the end of ROTJ, which is what makes it bittersweet, but they’re also not just in the movie to throw fans a bone. All of them are important to the story in some way, and The Force Awakens would be poorer without them.
The beats of the story echo the beats of A New Hope, which some people disliked. You have the opening on the desert planet where a piece of vital information is tucked into a droid while the droid’s owner is captured by the villain. You have a young person stuck on said desert planet who ends up befriending the droid and decides to help it achieve its goal of getting the vital information to the right person. You have a gigantic, planet-killing weapon wielded by the bad guys. (And there are more similarities; those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.)
I not only liked it; I LOVED it, and felt it was thematically appropriate for this movie. It didn’t seem like a retread; it seemed like an homage, a passing of the torch as the old characters welcomed in the new ones, and a new new hope for the galaxy arrived.
The Force Awakens works for a number of reasons: It sets up a new trilogy with new characters we care about, while still bridging the gap between the previous story and the previous characters. It’s not so mired in its own mythology that new fans are barred from getting into it.
But most importantly, it feels like a Star Wars movie, a worthy successor to the original trilogy that captured so many of our hearts and minds.