It’s difficult not to get chills when “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” appears and John Williams’s iconic theme kicks in. It’s difficult not to get nostalgic when characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca return to kick some ass, when Stormtroopers and the Millenium Falcon and lightsabers show up on screen again. Unlike the situation back in 1977, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen before, but it still finds a way to hit all the right notes as it integrates the new with the old. Star Wars is back, and although it’s full of problems, it’s also full of pleasures.
A legitimate criticism being leveled against the movie is that it feels like Episode IV: A Newer Hope, the product of JJ Abrams recycling Episode IV’s storylines and throwing some new paint on top. The main problem for me isn’t that he draws from A New Hope (it’s better than drawing from the prequels); rather, it’s how he handles it all at times. The inclusion of the Starkiller Base storyline is one of the bigger missteps, and the climactic battle scene at that base feels more like empty spectacle than anything else. Instead of just drawing on a select number of things that made the original trilogy great, it’s like Abrams felt he needed to include everything in order to “get it right”. Familiarity is essential, but the movie does feel like a watered-down version of Episode IV at times. The script moves so fast that many plot and character developments aren’t given enough time to breathe, and when we come across new stuff that should be expanded on–for example, the political climate at the time and how things have changed–the movie instead rushes forward.
In terms of new characters, though, Abrams and co. do an impressive job of incorporating them into the world. Yes, Rey and Finn have elements of Luke, Han, and Leia in them, but they still feel fresh. The new characters feel like worthy additions to the franchise, and that’s certainly helped by some great acting across the board from Boyega, Ridley, Driver, and “coolest person on the planet right now” Isaac. Surprisingly, though, the star of the movie is Harrison Ford. I expected him and Fisher and Hamill to show up because it’s fun to see the original cast, but I did not expect Han Solo to have a genuinely great character arc in this. This is one instance in which the movie not only pays homage to the original trilogy, but also introduces new elements, delving into who Solo has become and who he might want to be moving forward. It’s just really well done all around, not to mention the fact that he and Chewie are so damn fun to watch. The movie as a whole is fun to watch as well, and even though it has its fair share of flaws, it’s a solid setup for future stories.
-Usually, attempted humor in big blockbusters fail to register with me. However, I will say that this movie made me laugh more times than I thought it would.
-Seriously, Oscar Isaac is the best. I hope to see more of him in the upcoming installments, as he provides a lot of energy to this movie. I’m ecstatic that this guy is going to finally get the recognition he deserves; he’s quietly been (arguably) the best actor of the last several years.
-Aside from being happy about seeing Andy Serkis do this thing, I don’t really know how to feel about Snoke. I bet he’s small in reality, though.
-I am now realizing just how many things Domhnall Gleeson has been in this year. Still excited to see The Revenant.
-Well, kind of a waste of Gwendoline Christie, isn’t it? The way the movie handles her character–especially near the end–is just plain stupid. She pretty much exists just to facilitate one plot point, so she better have a bigger role in the later movies.
-Chewie is the unsung hero of this movie.
-Daniel Craig has a cameo in this as a Stormtrooper. That dull and expressionless mask is essentially what he looked like throughout Spectre.
-The final lightsaber battle is preceded by the most cheer-worthy moment of the movie. Also, the final scene of the movie is pretty awesome. Chills again.
-Ever since the directors were announced, I’ve been looking forward to Episode VIII much more. Rian Johnson is awesome.
Photo credit: Disney, LucasFilms, Star Wars: The Force Awakens