I am, and always have been, and “old school” Star Wars fan. I remember seeing the film in my footy pj’s at the merrimack drive in, under the stars, in a far simpler time in my life, and every core of being, that being that still believed in magic, connecting with that film. The struggle to escape the mundane, the adventure, the hope that inside you lay something bigger and more important that what you are at the moment. I remember my Han Solo blaster, and running around the front yard in the summer blasting trees that to me, were storm troopers. Spending countless hours with my giant 1970’s headphones on listening the to record (google it kids) of the movie, thumbing through the photobook of images from the film. I am, and always have been, an old school hard core Star Wars nerd.
So when I first heard George Lucas was selling Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand to Disney, my heart sank, and I saw a future where my childhood memories would be turned into corporate cookie cutter garbage pumped out for the hipster masses. I blasted them on social media, I sulked, i moped, and dragged my feet in an adult depression. My favorite childhood memory as I knew it, was no more.
I followed the internet news about the film “The Force Awakens”, I gripped when I heard J.J. Abrams was going to direct, I mean, he was the “Star Trek” guy! thats like having the president of Apple and the president of Microsoft be the same person! Blasphemy, heresy, outrage! I bristled at the Disney over the top marketing and merchandise, the hipsters hocking every thing from Star Wars forks to Storm trooper toilet paper. But regardless of my objections, I was still out there on opening night, in my seat, ready to see what Mr. Abrams had done.
I will admit to saying under my breath as the crawl begin, “holy crap, I can’t believe I’m watching Star Wars!”, and despite the curmudgeon in me, I can’t say that my excitement waned at all over the next 2 hours. I have been a fan of J.J. Abrams work longer than I realized. One of my favorite films is “Regarding Henry” starring Harrison Ford and written by J.J. Abrams. The film was always one of my favorites and I now realize why.
There are so many aspects of the film that I loved, and that show me just how much J.J. Abrams is slowly becoming the Steven Spielberg of the second half of my life. The first two most noticeably impressive things about the film are the things that for me, have been missing from the last three, that’s great dialog, and incredible acting. The two lead actors where both so charismatic and comfortable in the universe and the dialog flowed like a normal conversation, not Shakespeare in the park on steroids. The acting was completely immersive, showing a range of emotions and moments from the obvious to the subtle. I actually CARED about these two characters, and cared about what they were saying, even though I got little back story into them.
Its hard for me though, to look up on that screen and see my heroes, people who I grew up admiring, now looking so old, because that means I’m old too. The last time I saw Leia she was wearing a skimpy slave bikini and Harrison Ford was bare chested and jacked in Indiana Jones, and now they look like grandparents, and that’s a hard thing to get past, at least for me. I thought Carrie Fishers acting was spot on, and Harrison fell right back into character as well.
I will admit that not all of the film worked for me. The Star Wars nerd in me couldn’t reconcile some aspects of the story, like for example:
- who was the big “marvel avengers villain” looking hologram guy Supreme Leader Snoke, and what is his story?
- If people think the Force is just a myth, how does Finn know how to turn on a lightsaber when he picks it up?
- If Kylo Ren is a trained jedi, how does Finn even last 2 seconds against him in a lightsaber duel?
- How can you know the story of Han Solo but live next to the Millennium Falcon all your life and not realize what that ship is?
I know the film prided itself on “practical sets” but for some of those the practicality of the set took away the magic. For me the rebel base, some of the scenes in the forest, they lacked that magic of the original trilogy, because they didn’t look like places from another world, and more like locations in England. My last gripe is the final shot between Luke and Rey seemed a little forced, held to long, with too much forced unspoken drama. The helicopter shot felt forced as well.
When you watch the film, you realize, its basically a complete copy of the structure of A New Hope. A lost parent-less character on a desert planet that finds a droid with secret plans that need to be delivered to the rebellion. There’s a “cantina” scene, a raid to to dismantle the shields of the “death star” that ends with the death of a beloved old character at the hands of the evil sith. A last minute moment where the shields drop and the x-wings bomb the target to destroy the empires base. It was a safe story, meant not to bring the cannon forward but to simple retell the original story in a new way for a new audience. It was, in essence, a remake.
I left the theater having enjoyed myself, but sad in the fact that I did not share in the cheers, hoots and hollars of the other audience members. It was a good film, and if it had been called “Space Rebellion on Jakku” it probably would have been the best movie I’ve seen all year, but its not, its “Star Wars”, and this for me, was not the “Star Wars” I knew, loved, and grew up with. J.J. Abrams can do no wrong by me, he is an amazing director and writer and hands down the one person in Hollywood whose work is an inspiration, but this film for me marks a clear division in the history of Star Wars. There are the Disney fans, those who will go forward shouting the praises of the new direction and new universe, and those of us who begrudgingly will get left behind, the “original fans” who, despite all his faults, still believe that George Lucas’s Star wars, is OUR Star Wars, and this new one, is not for us.