Unless you’ve found yourself hanging from a wampa’s cave for the most part of the year 2015, you’ve probably noticed the tremendous hype Disney and the fans themselves built over Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Incremental release of movie set and script tidbits, a Comic-Con Star Wars concert, and cosplays, and exhibits, and toys, and apparel, and scents, and produce, and basically anything that can be sold has a Star Wars label slapped on it. But you know what comes after tremendous hype? High probability of heartbreak.
Okay, so here’s the deal. I realize how very fitting the title, “The Force Awakens” is. Because J.J. Abrams’ version is indeed a reawakening of a franchise film that a lot of the fans might say has been killed by the deadening prequels. The Force Awakens is indeed a more rousing and vibrant take. And do you remember the trailer, and this particular scene where Han Solo says: “Chewie, were home.”? Of course you do, you’ve probably watched that bit more times than necessary, or else your nerdy friend shoved it down your throat. Anyway I am digressing, what I am saying is, that line perfectly captures what J.J. Abrams did. That is, to bring us home to everything we loved about the original trilogy. The humor, the high adventure, the excitement, the sympathetic characters. So much so that most of the The Force Awakens feels like it’s hitting the same beats as Episode IV: A New Hope. There’s a counterpart for most things and places and people and even events. There’s a kind of Tattooine, a kind of Mos Eisley Cantina, a kind of death star, a kind of Palpitine, a kind of Darth Vader. They’re more or less the same thing only called by different names. There’s a secret message, and daddy issues, and force-choking, and fates, and reluctance, and planets blowing up. And I know I have a patchy memory, but I had my padawan nephew beside me during the whole movie, and he was giving a running commentary of the similarities. Kids can remember the tiniest details, I swear. Now I initially thought: Is this a good thing? Well, why change a winning team? But this might get old fast. Perhaps as a first installment, hat tipping is a wise route to take. But I am hoping Episode VIII wouldn’t be too close to The Empire Strikes Back. I would love for a fresher story.
But my gauge for the whole thing ended up being that feeling of absolute enthrallment. I couldn’t even bring myself to pee for any of the 2 hours and 15 minutes because I didn’t want to miss any of it. There is no down time in The Force Awakens, the movie moves at a brisk pace. And the old characters didn’t feel like relics, they were pretty much still right at home even amidst the new, shiny and glossy Star Wars surroundings. And the new characters were fantastic. John Boyega as Finn perfectly captures and restlessness and doubtfulness of a reluctant hero. But it is Daisy Ridley who steals the show as desert scavenger Rey. She has this wide-eyed innocence and vulnerability. But at the same time she is also extremely independent, and capable and tough as nails. She is a rare find and can very well lead this franchise to success. I am on the fence though about Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren who seems to become less and less formidable as the movie progressed. But I do have a feeling that this was perhaps deliberate. And I cannot not talk about Harrison Ford who settled into Han Solo with such ease and swagger, and this time with a shade of loving warmth.
And of course the special effects are more sophisticated now than in the 70s, and the X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter battle was absolutely amazing. And the set pieces were so grand, I felt spastic with nostalgic glee. And BB-8 is a great creation! He brings on the cute without the irksomeness of an ewok, or the jarring silliness of Jar-Jar. Ultimately, I walked out of the theater on such a high. I can’t wait to experience it all over again for Episode VIII! Hype and all. And yeah, I did experience heartbreak but in the best way possible.