When J.J. Abrams’ 2009 Star Trek reboot came out, many remarked that he was really trying to make a Star Wars movie. It’s not totally far off. Trek 09 really goes heavy on the action elements and emphasizes Kirk’s charming rogue side. Abrams was given a chance to make his Star Wars after Disney acquired the franchise from Lucasfilm in 2012 and has made his version of A New Hope with The Force Awakens. That’s not a bad thing.
With The Phantom Menace, it feels like George Lucas is doing all he can to avoid remaking his first Star Wars film. The main characters are stuffy old Jedi Knights, a clumsy borderline racial caricature, an over-excited child, and a young Queen. There’s trade negotiations, wacky droid armies, Japanese stereotype alien villains, and just a whole bunch of garbage. The thing is, A New Hope is the perfect way to introduce you to a whole universe. It’s a nearly perfect template, one that Lucas shouldn’t have worked so hard to avoid.
The Force Awakens is a thrilling blend of the old and the new. It makes the wise move of waiting to introduce our old favorites. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) don’t appear until our new characters have had a chance to show us what they’re made of. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) has a confrontation with Poe (Oscar Isaac). Finn (John Boyega) develops a quick friendship with Poe before meeting Rey (Daisy Ridley). Rey and Poe have already developed rapports with our new feature droid BB-8. Only once the next generation has had a chance to say hello and escape a few dangerous situations are they placed in our old friend the Millennium Falcon and officially introduced to the Star Wars universe.
The old and new blend together to make a Star Wars remix. Han gets to take on the Obi-Wan role, known to Finn for his exploits as a rebel and to Rey for his dealings as a scoundrel. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) gets to be a mix of his masters, Obi-Wan and Yoda (with just a pinch of dear old daddy dearest in that cybernetic hand). Leia (Carrie Fisher) is still doing her own thing Leia thing. Rey, Finn, and Poe get to be their own characters mish-mashed out of the Big Three from the original trilogy. Finn has a little bit of Luke’s bright-eyed newbie enthusiasm. Rey has those force powers and a knack for flying and escaping in whatever ship she can find. Poe is the ace rebel pilot that Luke was with all the confidence of Han Solo.
Kylo Ren gets to be just like his grandfather: a whiny young man with too much power. It’s still unknown just why he turned against his uncle Luke and Jedi day camp, but it looks like he has even less legitimate reasons than Grandpapa Anakin did. Ren gets the same confrontation with his father figure that Vader did. Unlike Vader, he gets to watch the life fade from his father’s eyes instead of seeing him disappear into the afterlife like he concentrated real hard until he got Raptured. Ren is a good kid turned bad, smoking dark side ciggies and spray-painting “Jedis Suck” on the side of the Falcon. He has a very outward struggle with the light and dark sides. There are complaints that once he takes off his mask, his menace is significantly diminished. That’s the point. He’s a scared kid pretending to be a Big Bad.
Even the ultimate weapon is straight out of A New Hope (and Return of the Jedi to the chagrin of Gary Kurtz). The super-ultimate planet Death Star is taken straight from the first Star Wars’ playbook. That all goes towards the idea of a new cycle, as well as Kylo Ren and the First Order imitating Darth Vader and the Empire. They made a bigger, badder Death Star because they want to be a bigger, badder Empire. They didn’t have to use Stormtrooper outfits, they used them because it reminds everyone of the Empire that used to rule and terrify the galaxy.
The Force Awakens successfully gives us new Star Wars characters and stories while also giving us the Star Wars we know and love. It gives us Han and Chewy neck deep in their old smuggling antics along with Finn being scared shitlesss at the prospect of marching into an enemy base on a rescue mission. It gives us the classic lightsaber fights, but with inexperienced fighters on both sides. Even the old Tie Fighter vs. X-Wing fights felt fresh and fun. The Force Awakens has moved Star Wars into its next generation and it is an exciting one.
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- Why did R2 only wake up at the end of the movie and not once BB-8 came into contact with him? The obvious answer is dramatic reasons, but I need a real one!
- I do not want to know why C-3PO got his red arm as I am sure the story in incredibly boring.
- So many question about Supreme Leader Snoke. Is he really a giant? Is he a tiny guy projecting himself as huge? Does he like cheese? The one thing I’m fairly certain about him is that he’s not Boba Fett.
- Harrison Ford just looked so much more lively back in the Falcon’s seat as Han Solo than I’ve seen him in years. We missed you Harrison Ford. He knows.
- I geeked out a little seeing Han use Chewy’s bowcaster.
- I was a little relieved to see that Luke (at least so far) isn’t the big, bad guy as many predicted. I mean, come on, it’s Luke! He just wanted to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!
- I am psyched that Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) is directing Episode VIII. Dude is gonna kill it.
- What do we have to do to get Lando Calrissian back for Episode VIII? I’ll do it, whatever it is.
- Captain Phasma can’t be too pleased with getting the old trash compacter treatment.
- I imagine with Han dead, Leia will get a little more to do next time around. After all, she has to bring her idiot son back from the brink.
- So does Luke just stand on that mountain all day staring or does he have some hobbies or something?
- Who was your favorite newcomer? Even though he got the least to do, I might have to go with Poe. mostly because Oscar Isaac is the man.
- Speaking of Oscar Isaac, it was nice to see a little Ex Machina reunion with him and Domhnall Gleeson, even if it really wasn’t a reunion since they didn’t do much of anything together.
- Are there 7 stages of Wookiee grief? I can only imagine there’s 2 or 3 and most of those involve ripping the arms off of things.