I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the fourth time yesterday. Monday will mark one month since the film hit theaters, but I have yet to post a single word here about my reaction.
It is time to rectify that:
Okay, you knew I couldn’t really leave it at a single word, right? What an incredible movie! As Disney and others hyped The Force Awakens over the last several months, I did not allow myself to get drawn in. Oh, sure, I was excited to see a new Star Wars movie, but I was only cautiously optimistic that it would be any good – much less great.
I only watched the various preview trailers for The Force Awakens once each, and I found them to be underwhelming. While the rest of Star Wars fandom went insane over them, I wondered if perhaps I was finally too old for anything new. The previews seemed only to be random collections of snippets, with little to suggest an intriguing story or to inspire me to want to see the movie other than cameos by the Millennium Falcon and her pilots.
While Finn (John Boyega), the character dressed as a stormtrooper in the teaser (I was sure it was a disguise), seemed like he could be interesting, I was less impressed with Rey (Daisy Ridley) – who it seemed to me in every trailer and publicity still was running towards the camera with gritted teeth. She also seemed like a rip-off of the prequel trilogy’s Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), one of my favorite if underused characters of that era.
Then there was this BB-8 droid rolling around like a basketball who I was sure would turn out to be the Scrappy to R2-D2’s Scooby Doo, or, I dare say, the sequel trilogy’s version of Jar Jar Binks.
(I should point out that I am actually neither a Scrappy nor a Jar Jar hater. I also like Ewoks, though, so what do I know?)
“If this movie didn’t have ‘Star Wars’ in the title, I wouldn’t even see it,” I remember thinking after watching one of the trailers.
During my first viewing of The Force Awakens on December 18, I realized I had mostly been an idiot. In fact, other than an initial disappointment that occurred just before the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .” appeared on screen, I was immediately taken in by this movie. It seemed perfect right from that point. Rey turned out to be my favorite of the new characters, and BB-8 turned out to be nearly as cool as R2.
Meanwhile, the movie itself accomplishes exactly what it most needed to do – recapture the spirit of the original trilogy. Perhaps it goes too far at times trying to emulate the magic of Star Wars (1977), but I find it hard to discount the film over that. The Force Awakens covers some familiar territory, yes, but it also turns much of that terrain upside down, shakes it up, puts it upright again, and lets the pieces fall everywhere. It also introduces compelling new characters in Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
To me, The Force Awakens is a “soft” reboot in that it has restarted the story for a new generation while remaining within the overall universe of George Lucas’s six films. A full reboot of Star Wars, completely starting over from scratch, would never be accepted. At least not by oldsters like me. (Philosophical note for a future post: How can an eternal 8-year-old be an oldster?)
Han Solo and the Falcon drew me to The Force Awakens, but Rey and Finn will draw me to the next episode.