John Ostrander: Anybody Out There See The Force Awakens?
Not so long ago in a movie theater not too far away. . .
(WARNING! Danger, Will Robinson! Spoilers spoilers spoilers!
If you have not seen SW VII and you don’t want to know what happen , avoid this article. In order to discuss it, plot details will get revealed. You’ve been warned.)
Okay, so I’m late to the party. Again. I finally went to see Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens this last week after about a gazillion other folks had seen it (it has grossed over a billion dollars worldwide).
I’m not an average SW fan. I’d labored in Uncle George’s sandbox for about a decade, writing Star Wars comics for Dark Horse. So I know the territory pretty well. As I’ve noted elsewhere, I was a fan from before the first movie came out, as I’d read the novel of the movie. So my credentials are pretty good.
I really enjoyed myself. Episode VII now joins Episodes IV and V as my favorites. I am sorry to say that my prediction on these pages from a few weeks ago turned out to be true. This is one time Han definitely should have shot first.
There are those (especially fans) who have quibbles and some of them are fair. There are re-cycled elements to the plot, most especially a planet killing (in this case, planetary system killing) weapon like the Death Star. This time it’s called Starkiller Base. You kinda wish the bad guys would think up some other threat. It makes them Vader One Notes.
Speaking of – the main baddie is dressed in black with a black armored mask and uses the Dark Side, pretty much like Darth Vader and is, in fact, Vader’s grandson. (See? I warned you there would be spoilers.) He appears to be conflicted (as Vader supposedly was) and there “is still good in him” but does some pretty rotten things, as Vader did, and I’m not certain I think he’s worth redeeming. He orders an entire village killed. He’s an accomplice in killing off an entire planetary system. He kills his dad, for crying out loud! (And once again, Star Wars has characters with daddy issues.)
Luke Skywalker has gone missing and everyone seems to be looking for him. He was training a bunch of new Jedi but one went bad and killed the others and Luke went off into self-exile. Why do the Jedi keep on doing that? Something goes wrong and they go off to pout somewhere. Yoda did it. Obi-Wan did it (he was supposedly watching over Luke but he also was in self-imposed exile).
There is a father-son confrontation on a metal crosswalk that doesn’t end well. Spaceships still travel at the speed of plot. The climax includes an X-wing attack on a small target to destroy the Big Bad Weapon as time is running out for the good guys.
I understand the desire to use former plot elements; this is re-starting the franchise and calling back to the first film (now called Episode IV). That’s what ignited our love for Star Wars in the first place. Having a story that reminds us of all that is not necessarily a bad idea. And it executed real well. Great visuals and, for a change, a really good script with sharp dialogue.
Above all, there were plenty of new things as well, key among them were the younger cast members. Don’t get me wrong – I just about cheered every time the older ones showed up. “Chewie. . .we’re home.” just about killed me. Heck, just seeing the Millennium Falcon for the first time was great. What was key is that the new Luke Skywalker figure is female – Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley. Yes, yes, yes – Leia was always a hero, but not like this. This is a Force using, lightsaber swinging hero and it’s a she. That is huge, IMO. And I think it’s going to have a powerful impact on young girls seeing the movie.
And the other new central hero, Finn (played by John Boyega) is black. Star Wars, in the past, has had trouble working in minorities, for whatever reason. This puts them front and center. Also, I don’t recall a character like Finn before in SW; he’s a turncoat stormtrooper who can’t be the bastard that he’s ordered to be. He rebels, he defects, and – yeah – he also swings a lightsaber.
Our third new hero, Poe Dameron, is the hottest pilot in the Resistance and is played by a Latino, Guatemalan born Oscar Isaac. Yes, Jimmy Smits is Latino and played Bail Organa (Leia’s adoptive father) in the prequel trilogy so Isaac is not the first Latino to play a major role in Star Wars but Poe Dameron is a hot shot X-Wing pilot and that’s just sexy.
The latest Star Wars reflects the changing face of the United States and that makes it feel far more contemporary. It speaks to now while retaining what we’ve loved about Star Wars. And it’s just great fun. I’ll be eagerly waiting Episode VIII and, in the meantime, will go back again to see Episode VII many times. It’s taken a couple decades but there is a Star Wars worth viewing again.
May the Force be with us all.