So I’ve been thinking a lot about how to write a SPOILER FREE review of Star Wars The Force Awakens, perhaps the largest movie in the past few decades. How do you convey specific things that make up a movie without talking about specific things in the movie? For one, it has to be short and simple. There can’t be too much because you run the risk of telling too much. However, it can’t be short because you run the risk of wasting everyone’s time. I think I found a happy medium that will speak volumes to those who saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens while at the same time either encouraging or discouraging those who haven’t seen it to whether they should or not.
A long time ago in this exact galaxy, arguably one of the best intellectual properties was born onto the silver screen. Star Wars isn’t just three movies that tell a story so old that it sounds like it was taken directly out of multiple religious texts and crammed into one license. It’s a world, that against all logic, exists in our minds as someplace we long to be. Speaking of religious texts, Star Wars has become just that. The Bible says at the very end in Revelation that no one is to add or subtract from it and that’s not too far off from how we fans of Star Wars feel about our beloved franchise. I mean, the creator himself managed to go too far and wreck all that was sacred to us with the prequels (read How to Watch Star Wars with Your Kids in an Order That Doesn’t Suck if you want to learn an interesting option to viewing order). So how does the next coming in J.J. Abrams do? There’s only one place to start…
In the beginning…of the movie, there’s no denying that you will see what seems like direct parallels with the previous trilogy, and mostly all in the exact order from which they appeared. Any fan of J.J. Abrams will know, and should not be surprised by this, that he always pays homage to those things that influenced him into becoming arguably the best storyteller of our time. So in typical Abram fashion he pays his respect to the exact story that he’s building onto. The movie starts out feeling like A New Hope moves into a little Empire but right when you walk into that Return of the Jedi moment, that’s when the movie becomes The Force Awakens.
One thing that you would expect to closely resemble the previous installments is the music. John Williams is easily the greatest film composer of all time with some of the most catchy tunes, that if someone is to whistle one you’ll be humming it the rest of the day. So being the genius he is, John Williams initially makes the music accompany the characters and action without playing anything too familiar. It isn’t until a specific action scene where we’re greeted to something so iconically recognizable that finally one of movies most identifiable themes is amplified in epic proportions. Williams’ subtle juxtaposition is perfect symbolism for the entire movie. Familiar yet completely new.
One element that was a surprising change is the humor. In something very serious like light vs. dark (or good vs. evil) it always seems like we give comedic license to only one character. Think Sawyer in LOST, Saul in Breaking Bad, or Han in Star Wars. However, in The Force Awakens, be prepared to laugh and not because you’re swept up in the moment or because nostalgia makes you smile and want to chuckle but because things are said and done in a real way, like it probably would if it all really happened (writing that sentence, admitting none of it’s real, pains me but it must be said). Unlike the previous films, other feelings are also heightened throughout which I never noticed were missing until I experienced it in this film. I’m not saying it lessens that of Episodes IV through VI but instead intensifies that of Episode VII. Overall, there’ll be a couple parts where you might be like, “eh, ok” but for the most part none of it feels “forced” as much as it does real.
When it comes to characters, it’s a mixed bag in that to each their own. I immediately accepted the new characters and embraced the old characters however that might not be the case for everyone. Speaking of old characters, we’ve all seen Han and how he’s aged but what’s really hard, for both obvious and not so obvious reasons, is seeing what age has done to our childhood idols. Abrams and the writers weren’t afraid to take a risk here and personally I think they pulled it off successfully.
When the original Star Wars series was made in the late 70’s and early 80’s, looking back, it was obviously geared towards young kids and teenagers. Think about it, a Princess needing rescued, robots, furry teddy-bear like Ewoks, and a movie filled with father/son issues. Well this too was made for young kids and teenagers but those young kids and teenagers now have young kids and teenagers of their own…and they should bring them with because it’s only poetic that the older generation use this particular movie to pass on something this special to the new generation.
The original Star Wars trilogy was a coming of age story and could be likened to that of going from middle school to graduating high school (yes, that makes the prequels categorized more so as pre-school to elementary). So in the only obvious next step, Force Awakens is much like that of college. It’s more experienced, it’s carefree, there’s times it has fun yet there’s times things need to be taken serious, and in the end it all pays off. However there’s a loneliness and fear that is over arching that also isn’t unfamiliar from one’s higher learning. It’s in this that Star Wars has consciously decided to grow up with us (cough * Jar Jar Binks * cough).
In the end, I personally think it had a great story (it’s not just a setup or a catching up), a lot was packed into two hours and sixteen minutes and even though there may be times you think throughout the movie, “What are the odds on that?” (we all know Han would prefer to never know those odds) one thing I’ll always love about the Star Wars universe is it isn’t luck, it isn’t coincidence, and it isn’t miracles, it’s the Force, and it has Awakened.
I rate this movie twenty-six R2-D2’s out of thirteen BB8’s.