“The Force Awakens” is the review I’ve been writing for nearly two weeks and I’m still not sure if I know how I feel. I loved it, but I didn’t “love” it. I’ve heard several of the Film Twitter types bring up that they can’t put it in a year end list because they’re far too close to it. I get the connection and the baggage that comes from a film series so tied to your upbringing. But, it has to be covered.
Star Wars is one of those things that just serves as a pillar of Western pop culture. While it has made its impact felt in the East, it doesn’t have the mental stranglehold like it does in the lands that said meh to Pacific Rim. Considering that, how can one objectively cover the latest Star Wars film? Judging by the pop culture landscape, you’re either still recovering from the Prequels or just hoping for an entertaining movie. Excitement for the case of excitement only exists on the periphery, as demand for Star Wars has entered this weird area. Expectations are carved out before a film is seen by the masses.
I’ll admit, I watched the trailers with baited breath and studied each new detail that was delivered. I listened to the spoilers and other bric brac sent into the site on a daily basis. All the while, I remembered covering Revenge of the Sith and the heartbreak that went along with that film. Would this release be any different? Does it matter?
“The Force Awakens” opens on a desert planet where a local kid takes possession of a droid. They meet up with a would-be pilot and then meet Han Solo. If any of this is sounding familiar, well that’s because every 15 year old social media denizen has been screaming that it’s a remake of “A New Hope”. The difference between that movie and this one is that I could name the planets and background characters in “A New Hope”. Most of the planets in this film are nondescript environments that are only remembered by the familiar faces I’ve seen in previous installments.
Does anyone else think it’s weird that Thai is now considered an official language in the Star Wars universe. It’s cool that that the Raid guys got to play the Kanjiklub, but it means that we’re now saying that Thailand is a location in the same dominion as Hoth. Things like that stick in my mind, instead of paying attention to random bits of dialogue. I guess that’s why it took a second viewing before I picked up the details of how the big secret map was recovered by both the Republic and the First Order. I can’t wait for home video when I can slow down and process Rey’s lightsaber LSD flashback.
The rest of film is just spoiler fodder, potential slash fiction material and other things that the Internet ruined over the Christmas break. If you haven’t heard it by now, that means you’re Amish or in a coma. Both parties aren’t in my target demo, so they don’t matter to me. What does it all mean for the discerning viewer? Why was this one of the best films of 2015?
“The Force Awakens” followed Abrams’ pattern that he set with the “Star Trek” reboot. Taking a softer hand and guiding the elements that worked from the OT and the Prequel Trilogy, Abrams with the input of Lawrence Kasdan found a new future for our beloved space opera. It’s a familiar home, but one with changes that matter. Different faces are getting a chance to take the spotlight, while familiar faces brace us for the changes that are coming. New dynamics arrive that demand long terms fans challenge the beliefs held by what they know of the Force and beyond.
“The Force Awakens” succeeds by not taking the easiest route to making us all remember why we love “Star Wars”. It’s a generational touchstone that entertains while making us marvel at the spectacle of the saga. Popcorn cinema still gets a backhand from those that want to keep film elite and removed from the masses. But, a film as well crafted as “The Force Awakens” dares us to open and embrace all that we once loved, will love and can help others to love as a shared experience. It’s a movie meant to be viewed as a community marveling at what film can do for us at every point in our life.
RELEASE DATE: 12/18/2015