Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Force Awakens

  I can't decide if I'm the worst person to objectively review this movie, or one of the best. I'm only 21, but I fit in this perfect generational window that had the chance to see the original trilogy in theaters when it was re-released as the special editions. So, to date, I've seen every Star Wars movie in theaters, with my family. I could write article after article about everything Star Wars means to me, about how it defined my childhood, about how some of my first memories are of seeing the original trilogy on the big screen- larger than life. And, after all that I would be but one of millions saying pretty much the same thing.

  Such a big theme in these movies is legacy and birthright, so it's supremely fitting that this franchise has such longevity that the existing fans who are now fathers, mothers, and older siblings can introduce new generations to it just as well. I hear my dad talk about seeing these movies when they first came out and he was in high school. I tell my little brothers about how I first saw them when I was four, and I'm sure years from now, they'll be telling their story about how they saw The Force Awakens in theaters the day after the Christmas of 2015. It's nothing short of delightful then, that The Force Awakens shines brightly like the Star Wars movies haven't since well before I was born. Only the pickiest of fans, or the most disinterested in the genre could dislike the movie entirely.

  It's not perfect, and I'm sure people will be picking it apart for years to come but it's often easier to talk about what's wrong with something instead of what's right with it. Sure, I have my gripes. I have some minor complaints. But, they all pale in comparison to the wave of staggering emotions I felt when a hush fell over the crowd in the theater, and those familiar blue letters hung quietly on the screen, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." What came next broke the emotional dam I thought would be able to hold back that wave of feelings and I ended up viewing the first thirty seconds of the movie through a messy fog of man tears.

   Does any of that speak to the quality of this particular movie? No, not in the slightest. But, it does speak to the impact that the franchise has had on me and my life. Star Wars is a part of who I am. So many good memories I have of friends and family revolve around these movies and all the bonding I did with people over them. The people behind The Force Awakens knew what the crowd would be feeling in these first few moments, because they too are fans. I'm sure even despite having made the movie themselves that they too feel some of that impact when they sat down and watched their finished product.

  Of course, I could go on like this for ages, but let me get down to the movie itself. I wasn't a fan of how the force was portrayed. I felt like it was too easy for a certain character to get the hang of it. It came far too naturally to them to be convincing knowing what I know from the other movies. Luke required training before he could even perform the simplest tasks using the force. This character though, with no training whatsoever managed to use a Jedi mind trick on a stormtrooper. While the scene is great, and it's even better knowing who's under the helmet... it still didn't gel with me. I should also point out that the plot is more or less a retread of A New Hope- in broad strokes at least. While the familiarity is more than welcome, sometimes it feels a smidge too familiar. Like certain plot points and structure were lifted directly from A New Hope.

  Alas, I digress. In retrospect, none of this really bothers me. Not in any way that could possibly detract from my enjoyment of the film. The new characters are fantastic and fun to watch. Kylo Ren, the new villain manages to hold his own and not get lost in the shadow of his iconic predecessors. He's easily one of the most fascinating and engaging characters here. Seeing Han, Leia, and Chewie again was so amazing. It was like seeing old friends that you haven't seen in years, and they've come back into your life. It was amazing. They meshed perfectly with the new characters, and didn't overshadow them at all. It was truly an ensemble cast, and everyone had their moment to shine.

  Of course the real feat of this movie was leaving me wanting more. This was so pitch perfect that I'm dying to see more. I want more adventures with Finn, Rey, and Poe Dameron. The best part is, at this point, it's only a matter of time. Just a waiting game until Episode 8. Anyways, The Force Awakens succeeds in being more like the original movies instead of the prequels. It's straightforward plot, cracking wit, emotional story, and wide-eyed characters make it a blast for fans and newcomers alike. It has a very forward moving energy to it, and the laughs are spot on. The visuals are fantastic, and I couldn't stop recalling all the scenes I thought were perfect on the ride home with the family.

  The theater was positively alive and the audience was reacting from the gut. Laughs, groans, gasps. The whole thing. Almost every moment played out perfectly. And, even though the plot is very very similar to A New Hope, the story is it's own beast, the characters are their own, and I enjoyed every minute of the movie.  I have so much more I can say about this movie, but it would take two articles and then some for me to get it all out. I'll spare you all and just say... J.J. did it. He pulled it off. The Force Awakens is good. Really good. The force is strong with this awakening. Can't wait for more!

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