Do you remember the feeling you had when you first saw Star Wars? No, not the prequels. I mean the original trilogy starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford. Well, you’re going to get that feeling again when you watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens (a.k.a. Episode VII) because it captures everything that was good about the original trilogy. That’s right—J.J. Abrams did what some of us (including me) thought to be impossible.
It helps that The Force Awakens is structured to be just like A New Hope. It has the chosen one (Daisy Ridley’s Rey), the handsome rogue (John Boyega’s Finn), and the rebel fighter (Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron). There’s an opposing imperial force backed by the Dark Side with a master (Andy Serkis’ Snoke) and his apprentice (Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren). Even the plot is mapped the same. Run from the imperial force (now called the First Order), get whatever’s in the droid to the rebellion (now called The Resistance), blow up the imperial weapon, but more importantly…allow the chosen one to discover the force.
Other reviews have said this movie is derivative—that it relies on the preceding films to carry its weight and gain favor. But I disagree. When it comes to Star Wars, why fix what isn’t broken? George Lucas made a mess when he tried to deviate from what made Star Wars great. That’s why we have prequels that are more soap opera than they are hero’s journey. Or why the “remastered” trilogy has unnecessary add-ins (Damn it, Hayden Christensen. You ruin everything). Yeah, I think Abrams made the right call when he decided to mimic A New Hope.
My other argument against the “derivative” point is that, while The Force Awakens is very reminiscent of Episode IV, it’s the beginning of a new generation. Yes, we get to see our old favorites like Han, Leia, Chewie, C3PO, and R2D2 (We’ll talk about Luke down in the spoilers section). But, for the most part, their chapters are concluding. They’re there to usher us into the chapters of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and Kylo Ren. That’s why this movie works so well. It has just enough nostalgia to hook you, but it keeps you with new characters and stories you can care about.
And I promise…you will care about these characters. I’m calling it now. I bet you Finn will be the new fan favorite. He’s modeled after Han, so, I mean, duh. He’s easily the funniest character, and his hilarity comes from not being as smooth as he thinks he is. Then there’s BB-8, who’s a serious cuteness rival for R2D2 and will make you feel all the feels. As for Poe, he’s like a sexier version of Wedge Antilles to me. In other words, he’s not going to be a “lead,” but he’ll be around to do cool X-wing shit.
But Rey is for sure our main character in this new trilogy, even beating out Finn. She’s essentially another version of Luke. An orphan able to fend for herself who desires a deeper understanding of who she is and why her family left her (which we still don’t know), and a good pilot who later learns her skills go far beyond flying. But it’s not just the fact that she’s a sympathetic protagonist. She’s also a great female character (Yes, it needs mentioning).
So many movies can’t balance strength and weakness in their female characters. They either make them damsels in distress or so strong they’re practically robots. But Rey is exactly what we’ve needed in a female lead. She feels like a real person, not someone’s one-dimensional love interest or the movie’s token woman. Also, Daisy Ridley is a gorgeous woman, and the Star Wars team didn’t try to hide that, but they also didn’t feel the need to cake on makeup and have her hair look flawless. She got to be sweaty and dirty, the way anyone else would be if they were running around in extreme heat. This is progress.
As for our villains, I don’t think we’re 100% there yet. They were the weakest link in this movie. Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux feels like a pale imitation of Grand Moff Tarkin (Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have the cheekbones), and Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma didn’t have a lot to do (which was disappointing because she looks so badass). Even Kylo Ren wasn’t as terrifying as Darth Vader was right off the bat (although I believe that’s purposeful because it seems like they’re building him up to be more of a psychopath). But there are two more installments in this trilogy, so perhaps we’ll see more of the First Order and the Dark Side there.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A-
If you’re interested in The Force Awakens spoilers, scroll down to the section below. Also, you can listen to my Star Wars review on “Pat & JT in the Morning” here (at 26:38).
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Well, well, well. The trailer was pretty crafty. It tried to make us think Finn would be the new Jedi since he had the lightsaber during the duel with Kylo Ren. But no. Rey is the new Jedi. So now the question is…who is Rey’s family? Considering the family theme throughout the canonical Star Wars universe is fathers and their children, I’m going to go ahead and guess Luke is Rey’s father.
Before seeing the movie, I was sure Kylo Ren and Rey would be twins, judging by how they were posed on the official poster. Now that we know Kylo Ren (whose real name is Ben) is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, I’m thinking they’re Skywalker cousins. The way Han and Leia interacted with Rey seemed familial, too. They both gave her the “I know you” look without saying anything, which makes me feel like they’re trying to protect her. Perhaps from her cousin who’s gone to the Dark Side?
Besides, being Luke’s daughter makes a lot of sense. Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) referenced Luke and Anakin when talking to Rey about the lightsaber and the power within her. Obi-Wan Kenobi calls out to Rey when she had her prophetic vision. There’s also the similar framing in both Luke and Rey’s stories. And the fact that we don’t see Luke until the very end of the film when Rey takes the lightsaber to him (during which he, too, gives her an “I know you” look). Yeah, I’m betting we’re going to get an “I’m your father” reveal in Episode VIII.
If this is true, it’d also set up a great narrative for our protagonist and antagonist if they’re both trained by Luke and have Skywalker blood. It’d be Shakespearean (or Oedipal, if we go deeper into the “murder your dad” thing). Both Rey and Kylo Ren feel abandoned by their parents. We already know Kylo Ren is trying to live up to Darth Vader’s legacy. If Kylo Ren ends up killing Luke, Rey will undoubtedly seek revenge. And how do you think Luke and Leia will get along if their kids are trying to kill one another? God, I hope my guess is right.
On a final note, let’s talk about Han’s death because I know some of you are pissed. The way I see it, he had to die (because Harrison Ford is tired). Han was to Rey what Obi-Wan was to Luke in A New Hope. That is, the link to the old world and the family the hero never knew who dies to drive the hero’s journey forward. It needed to happen for Rey’s story (and also for the hot mess of daddy issues that is Kylo Ren). Also, Han is expendable. Luke is the only one who can train Rey, and Leia has another rebellion to run. Sorry, guys. RIP Han.
And if we’ve learned anything from Star Wars, NEVER STAND ON A BRIDGE WITH YOUR FATHER/SON.