Editor’s note: This started out as a review, but I realize after reading several online and seeing the movie twice I don’t want to review it. Of course the movie has its flaws, every movie does. You don’t need me to point them out, there’s a legion of people already doing it. I will say, see it yourself before you believe someone else’s review, good or bad, even if you wish to wait until it’s cheaper or free to see.
I saw Episode VII a second time this past weekend, because I knew I couldn’t do a very good review after my first viewing. It was too emotional for me, as an old fan, to get back to this universe I love so much and see it done so well. Yes, I said it, I’ll get it out of the way right now, I loved the movie. I cried a little at the end. Not sobbing or anything like that, but that sort of happy mistiness I get when I see those videos of soldiers coming home to their kids, or their dogs that are so happy to see them. I knew I missed some stuff, because the first time around I went to experience it, not to watch it in any critical manner, so I knew I had to see it again to really watch it.
Then the days between I watched people tear it apart on social media. Some people had very valid and well-informed criticism. They had genuine concerns about character development, backstory, and dialogue. There were also a lot of people who made me wonder if they even watched it, calling into question things that were clearly explained in the movie, but could have been easily missed if they weren’t paying attention. I even saw someone criticize a couple of characters, then admit they hadn’t seen it yet. All of that made me wonder if I might see it differently the second time around, if all the bashing the movie got would make me see these same faults, or look at it more harshly. Thankfully, it didn’t. I liked it just as much the second time around as I did the first.
The movie does follow a similar pattern to A New Hope with some very distinct differences that should set the stage for the next two movies to branch off into interesting story lines. The sets and scenery are much more reminiscent of the original trilogy than the Prequels and the use of CGI is much more subtle. What the movie also does is expect us to use our imaginations again. Most of us are not used to that. We’re used to movies spending too much time on dialogue, backstory and flashbacks to give us every detail of everything rather than focusing on the actual story, because the movie has to stand on its own. Just like A New Hope can sort of stand on its own, so can The Force Awakens, but if we’re being honest ANH just isn’t the same without the others. If you watch it, and try to ignore everything you know…or if I may, “Unlearn what you have learned” you can easily see all of the questions, unexplained plot threads, and story hooks that need the rest of the trilogy to make sense. Like ANH, TFA is meant to be the introduction to a trilogy, not a stand-alone movie that everyone hopes will get a sequel.
Right from the beginning this movie feels more like the original trilogy, and I think that’s what made it so easy to get into. To me, when the movie started it was like coming home, or going home to the town you grew up in. Of course things are different, but there are a lot of things that are familiar. Your memory of the place doesn’t exactly match what it looks like now, but you still love it. Faces have changed, new buildings have gone up, but the old places you remember are still there. It’s comforting, familiar, and new all at the same time. That’s what it felt like for me, and probably why this isn’t a review, or a critical review anyway. If I wasn’t harsh enough people would say I was biased and too kind. If I was harsh for the sake of being harsh, I might wonder if I was influenced by all I read between, or other people might wonder if I was being harsh not to look like a fanboy.
That’s what I am, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all wrong with being a fanboy or a fangirl, because that’s what makes us what we are, our love for our particular ‘thing’, that love that makes us dress up in costumes, and go to conventions, and buy coffee table art books for ridiculously high prices just so we can flip through them and smile. This movie brought a lot of that back for me. No matter if someone thinks Rey’s a Mary Sue (which she’s not, but we’ll talk about that later), or if Finn got off too easy against Kylo (which he didn’t, he got whooped), it doesn’t really matter. We remember the original trilogy as perfect because we loved them so much, but they were far from perfect. Just like the town we grew up in, and feel a little excitement going back to, our memories don’t fit the reality, but it doesn’t really matter.
I think the true measure of how good, or bad this movie is, was evident on my son’s face, and the excitement of all the children out there. I know a lot of people thought the prequels were childish, and made to appeal to kids, but that just didn’t play out. My son was the perfect age for the prequels, but he really didn’t like them, and never watches the prequels like I watched the OT when I was a kid. We walked out of this movie, and my son was so excited, so happy, and didn’t stop talking about it all day. I could hear him on his computer talking to his friends, and he talks to total strangers about it at the store. That’s something the prequels never had, it didn’t excite the youngest generations in any way. The original trilogy inspired kids, it drove young people to want to become story-tellers, writers, artists, movie makers, and creature designers. Star Wars, in its original form, is responsible for so much of the great geek culture we have today. How many developers, creators, and artists might have gone into some other career if not for Star Wars? Would we have had all the great fantasy and science fiction today without it? Maybe, it’s impossible to say, but we can definitely say it has had an immeasurable impact.
So, we can tear this movie apart, look at all the things we don’t like, or don’t understand, all the questions left unanswered, mysteries and foreshadowing, but when it’s all said and done we can’t deny that this movie has sparked something unlike anything we’ve seen in 30 years. Will the others hold up, answer the questions we still have, and culminate in a legendary trilogy of movies? I don’t know, it’s impossible to answer. We all thought The Matrix was going to be that way years ago, and we were wrong. Expectations are high, no other group of fans are as critical and demanding as Star Wars fans in my opinion, and the bar was set high 30 years ago. All I can say for sure is I’m excited, for the first time in a long time, to see what happens next.