Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

Confession: I have never been into Star Wars.

The series that so many people grew up with was never something in which I took interest. I wasn’t one of the children who begged their parents to take me to see the movies that came out as I was growing up. I didn’t collect the merchandise, the shirts and jackets emblazoned with Rebel logos or Empire insignias, the replica blasters and toy ships that populated the halls of the toy stores. Luke Skywalker didn’t inspire me. I wasn’t star-struck by Han Solo. I wasn’t awed or intimidated by Darth Vader.

I never even wanted a lightsaber. That swishing beam, that glowing blade that so many children thought was the coolest thing they had ever seen, never interested me. I didn’t want to be a Jedi like the other kids. I simply didn’t care for Star Wars.

But, I was invited to see The Force Awakens. I was asked to give the series a chance. I sat down and watched the six movies that came before this one, preparing myself for…really, for what, I don’t know.

Tonight, I was excited. Maybe this movie would be what Episode IV (the first movie; it’s complicated, I’ll explain later, maybe) was to so many others. Maybe I’d finally see what so many others saw in this series.

As someone who has never been a fan of Star Wars, I can honestly say that I was not disappointed.

I was thrilled.

I was captured, pulled to the edge of my seat, not just by the grandeur of it all—the sweeping vistas, the grand set pieces, the impossible ships that dominated the screen—but by characters that, so many light years away, in galaxies we may never know, reached into the audience and pulled me into their star systems.

Putting everything else aside, putting away the idea that this movie is just part one of a larger set, or part seven of an even greater series, or just one chapter in a collection of stories, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is, by itself, a fantastic film.

The characters resonate with a depth unseen, at least by me, in the original trilogy. These are not the wooden performances of an uncertain troupe set to dialogue that chews more scenery than Godzilla on Broadway. These are people, living, breathing people, well aware of the history that lies behind them, and they feel real. Yes, there are characters who return from the older films, and maybe I would’ve cared more about them had I been invested in their original stories.

The new ones, however, the ones without history, the ones whose stories had yet to be told, burst through the screen with an unrelenting believability. I cared about these people, and, more importantly, I wanted to know more. This was not something I felt in the original trilogy, nor did I particularly care about the fates of anyone in the prequels. Yet these characters, with their dimensions, their conflicts their desires, made me care.

I watched, breathless, as the lone scavenger with dreams of greater things clashed relentlessly with forces far greater than she could have possibly imagined, as she refused to be rescued by anyone other than herself, as she proved to doubting masses that she could be her own hero.

I cheered for the Stormtrooper who chose to think differently, who turned away from the path that had been laid for him and bonded with a boisterous and boyish pilot and his bouncing ball droid.

I was even enthralled by the galaxy’s latest antagonist, not the stoic Lord of an era long before him, but a figure brimming with emotion, with fire and fury and fear, but also pain and torment and uncertainty and, yes, even doubt, a dark lord with dynamicity not typically reserved for figures meant to be imposing.

My heart was broken, and my mind was blown, not just by the stellar performances, but also by the remarkable writing underneath it. Even in its most serious moments, there was laughter to be found in the awkward friendship that united these brave heroes against a threat the galaxy had never known. Unlike the bland language of the original trilogy, and unlike the unbelievably corny “dialogue” of the prequels (it was so bad, it was so, so bad), I believed every word that was said on the screen.

Nothing in the movie felt unnatural or out-of-place. These were not the cheap sets and scavenged costumes of the original series, nor were these the great but gaudy and almost too clean locales from the prequels. The places and the faces in every scene, and the cinematography that was nothing short of stunning, made me feel like I had truly been transported to a galaxy far, far away, and I have nobody but J.J. Abrams to thank for bringing all of these elements together.

There are those reviewers who have said that a lot of the elements of this film were simply borrowed from the original trilogy, rehashed and enhanced for the 21st Century. I will admit, there were scenes that felt remarkably familiar, like we’ve been here before. But that is exactly what Abrams is doing: he is inviting us back to that galaxy we think we know, and he is also showing us how far that galaxy has come in the many decades since its inception. Though it may feel familiar, Abrams manages to keep the film fresh, exciting, and new.

Whatever George Lucas envisioned a long time ago, Abrams has finally managed to achieve those impossible ideals, if not surpass them entirely. I can confidently say that, as someone who had never been a fan of this series, Abrams and Disney managed to exceed my expectations.

There has been an awakening, and I have felt it. Through the tireless efforts of everyone over at Lucasfilm and Disney, this latest entry into the storied Star Wars saga has managed to inspire in me a new hope. After what will only be the rousing success of this picture, I can’t wait to see how J.J. Abrams plans to strike back. I can’t wait for the return of the Jedi.

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