Movie Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

star_wars_poster_full.0.0If your friends are like my friends, then you will understand why many of the conversations I’ve had recently began with a variation of, “So have you seen it yet?”  And by “it” we all understood that we meant Star Wars.  We’ve been comparing excitement and concerns for a good two years now, so we all have a good grounding of discussion.  I’m not getting this review up immediately, but I went to see the movie on Saturday of opening weekend.  I was clinging to caution right up until the lights dimmed (and maybe for an hour after that…) but the final verdict?  I liked it!

And from here on out, spoilers abound.  I warned you!

The story is set thirty years after Return of the Jedi.  The politics are slightly confusing, but the Rebel Alliance has evolved into/been replaced by the Resistance, who are fighting the First Order, heir apparent of the Empire.  And there’s a New Republic, but we’re not sure how powerful they are.  Much more importantly, Luke has disappeared, General Leia Organa is heading the Resistance and hoping to find her brother, a renegade Stormtrooper named Finn gets mixed up in galactic complications, then drags Rey, a scavenger on a desert world (but not Tattooine) into the mix too.  And there are battles and uses of the Force and funny droids.  Of course.

That is not a good summary, but you’ve probably seen it by now, so it doesn’t matter that much.  We know what I’m talking about, right?

So after being super, super cautious, why did I like it?  Mostly it was the characters.  And it just felt right.  After the mess of the prequels, this felt so much more like the original trilogy.  There were funny lines delivered well, echoing Empire-ish hallways unspoiled by obvious CGI, a funny droid sidekick and, perhaps most important, we’re back onto a Hero’s Journey archetypal trajectory, only this time it’s also a Heroine’s Journey because Finn and Rey both have paths to explore.

And regarding the characters.  I loved Finn and Rey.  Just loved them.  I think it was when they steal the Millennium Falcon and scramble together an escape, meet up in a corridor and talk over each other with excitement about the crazy thing they just pulled off.  Or it might have been earlier, when Rey is very indignant about not needing Finn to grab her hand when they need to run.  And on that note, Rey never needs rescuing.  It’s awesome.  (On that note, this is still a mostly male cast, but the producers were clearly trying.  We have Rey, and we also have a lot more women sort of scattered around–Resistance fighter pilots and a First Order villain.  Leia, sadly, gets rather shelved, but at least she’s shelved as a General so that’s something…)

So as I was saying–I loved the characters.  I loved the way it felt.  I loved the throwbacks to the original and it just feels good to see Han trying to talk his way out of a mess.

Which brings me right up to the one part I still don’t know how to feel about.  More spoilers coming! But first some context.

Ever since they threw out the Expanded Universe (all the canon established in the books), I’ve been saying I didn’t care about the details, I just didn’t want them to change the broad strokes (so that’s about a year and a half I’ve been maintaining this!)  I wanted Luke to be the Jedi Master training up a new generation of Jedis, and I wanted Leia and Han to be happily married, preferably with Leia in some kind of high-level political role.  That’s all I wanted.  That wasn’t asking for that much, right?

And for most of the movie, I felt okay.  I kept reminding myself (honestly, I literally thought this a good six times while watching), it’s an alternate universe version, and it wasn’t too bad anyway.  Luke was training Jedi before he disappeared.  Leia and Han (married or not?) at least had a son together, and Leia was leading the Resistance.  Things have gone off track recently, but they’ll probably patch back up to the way it ought to be by the end of the trilogy, right?

So I was totally on board, despite some issues…until Han died.  And I still don’t know how I feel about that.  As a writer I appreciate that it was beautifully done.  As a fan I’m sad (and also chanting alternate universe, alternate universe).  And you know what might be weirdest?  I am heart-broken that we didn’t get another I love you/I know moment for Han and Leia.  I’d feel so much better if, right before Han got on the ship to fly off and be killed, he’d looked at Leia and said, “I still love you,” and she said, “I know” and then I just think I’d have so much more peace around the whole thing.  Sigh.

I’m holding out hope that he might not really be dead though.  I discussed this with a group of friends and we all agreed there’s absolutely no logical way he could have survived–but that that won’t matter at all if they want to bring him back.  So.  We’ll see.

I’m kind of disappointed that Luke was barely a cameo and that Leia wasn’t much more than that.  But I’m hopeful about both of them (Luke more so) for the next movie–which I think I’m more excited about than I was for this one.  I don’t feel like I have to be so cautious.

And also, I’m weirdly happy about Luke’s beard.  I don’t know, it was just a really nice touch that somehow gave me this great final moment of “ooh, awesome” that makes me feel happier about the whole thing.  Because the last moment of a movie is hugely impactful.

Although I did put a Timothy Zahn Star Wars novel on reserve at the library the day after seeing the movie.  Because that is a man who knew how these characters’ lives should turn out, and the new movies still have some work to do to convince me they’re more primary than the Thrawn trilogy.  But I’ll be excited to go see them anyway!

6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Star Wars – The Force Awakens

  1. This film is on its way to being the highest grossing film EVER, so there will be a lot of discussion and analysis of it, worldwide, for a very long time. It sounds like, overall, Disney did not disappoint the fan base with this release. That’s a good thing since the last go-round was so bad. It’s great for people to have something new to dissect. 🙂

  2. Dennis

    Ironically, one of the movie’s greatest strengths was also, in a way, its greatest flaw. The plot was eerily similar to A New Hope, down to the hero on a desert world with latent Jedi powers. There was a definite lack of originality. Yet, that is also part of what helped Star Wars get its groove back after the three prequels fell so far short, and if you’re going to steal a plot, you might as well steal the best.

  3. Agreed on many points, especially coming from someone else who read many expanded universe novels. But you didn’t even touch on how unique a villain Kylo Ren is–that he knows he still has good in him and HATES it. That he’s unstable in a “I’m going to back away slowly because you’re scaring me” way instead of an angsty way like Anakin was. I loved that about him, and look forward to what his future holds as well.

    1. A good point! I actually really liked the part when he says the “light side is calling to him.” It was a cool reversal of the good guy tempted by evil…he’s a villain tempted by good. I really hope we find out more about his past/why he turned dark in later movies.

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