May the force be with you.
And also with you.
We lift up our wallets.
We lift them up to you…our lord…Lucas…Disney…Snoke (wait, seriously, Supreme Leader….Snoke?)
I originally planned to write about how for so many Star Wars has become a religion, but, if this new Disney backed sequel, The Force Awakens, accomplishes anything, it’s that it successfully (and thankfully) wipes away the cartoonish reverent silliness of the prequel trilogy and returns the series to the rollicking space opera action of the originals.
Thirty years after The Return of the Jedi, Resistance leader Leia (Carrie Fisher, looking more and more like her mother with each passing year) has dispatched her star fighter pilot Poe (a game Oscar Isaac) to the Tatooine-esque Planet Jakku (not to be confused with Planet Jacko, where the King of Pop’s hologram rules supreme) to retrieve a map that will allegedly lead them to Luke Skywalker, who after the rise of the Dark Side supported First Order went into hidden exile. There Poe and his charismatic soccer-ball droid BB-8 (an instant new fan favorite) receive unlikely aid from a Storm Trooper with a sudden change of heart he calls Finn (John Boyega, in what should be a star-making turn) and a scrappy scavenger who just might have a bit of The Force in her named Rey (played with moxie by Daisy Ridley, who comes across as a more likable version of Keira Knightley).
Eventually, we get reintroduced to Han Salo and Chewbacca (who, seriously, is so damn likable and wonderful in this, so funny, so the perfect foil for Harrison Ford’s cavalier sarcasm, that I had forgotten just how much I always loved that damn Wookie) and…well…that’s about as far as I’ll go with the plot to avoid spoilers. Though I will say that the new Emperor-level baddie is named Snoke and played by Andy Serkis. Oh, yeah, and that odious hipster dude from Girls, Adam Driver, is in it too…in a bit of subversive casting as someone who has gone from the Light to the Dark Side and not gotten control of his temper tantrums yet.
J.J. Abrams (though he still throws in plenty of lens flares!) is forced to direct this thing competently and without any of his other annoying signatures (essentially with his hands tied behind his back) by his Disney overlords. I always knew Abrams was a hack, but man, what a good little hack Disney needed here, and some of the best genre films have been directed by smart hacks, which Abrams surely is. Quick-clipped, quick-witted and loaded with serial-inspired action, the film breezes by from one set piece to the next.
But what makes the film so much fun is Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay, which returns the dialogue and character interactions back to the series’ screwball-comedy-in-space origins. The banter between characters new and old brought plenty of intentional laughs, and the aforementioned charms of the Droids and Wookie make the whole film sing. Of course, there’s some heavy-handed family drama in there too…but when things are blowing up so wonderfully around it all, you can’t help but be entertained.
The plot twists can be seen from a mile away because of how ingrained the Star War mythos has become in our pop culture lexicon…I mean, heck, I could probably even predict some twists in the next two episodes. And the cyclic nature of history and entertainment is strongly displayed here as all that is old is…well, old again…but warmly welcomed.
While leaving the theater, the stranger next to me turned and said, “It was nice to see them again.” Yes, it was. After the movie, I asked the nine year-old family member I saw it with if he liked it. He responded, “Yes, but just not the part where…” Oh wait, that’s right, I can’t spoil that here. Later, I asked him what his favorite Star Wars movie was and he said, “Well, definitely not Episode Seven!”
Hmm, I think Disney might’ve hoped for a “That was the best movie ever!” response from the younger generation.
But it’s not. It’s just an entertainment. It’s not a religion. It’s like an old friend you’re glad to see again at the holidays.
And here’s hoping it inspires a younger generation to dream not of remaking the past…but of something new that hasn’t been dreamed of yet.
Which is why, while I look forward to seeing my new and old friends again in Episodes Eight and Nine, I look more forward to going back to sleep…where maybe even I can dream of something new.
Written by David H. Schleicher