Here’s the short, short version: J.J. did it. Non-spoiler details to follow.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Galactic Rodent purchased a franchise from Lucas the George. After hiring Abrams the Promising, it was ordained a new story of heroic deeds and dire villains would be told — different enough, but not too different from the tales of old. As the days grew colder, the masses gathered and waited to hear the new stories, hopeful that they would not be disappointed…and most were NOT disappointed. For three days they heard the stories again and again, and in the castle, the Galactic Rodent smiled.
Well, how ELSE are you going to do a spoiler-free review? The most amazing part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens is how little was revealed in the trailers. Audiences have long been spoiled by studios afraid surprises result in poor sales, that audiences don’t really want to be “surprised.” Maybe that’s true for Transformers movies, but not Star Wars. The secrets are back, and here’s the closest thing to a spoiler you’re going to get without wandering into the comments section: the secret is there are plenty of secrets still unrevealed. While Episode VII introduces a new cast, new situations, high adventure and a conclusion, it’s gone back to its serial roots by saying there’s more to come.
While the new movie feels like Star Wars should feel — something that didn’t always happen in the prequels — there seems to be more humor in J.J. Abrams take. Co-written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt, there’s pedigree here to touch upon the most satisfying space opera tropes, not to mention stacking the deck with familiar characters, space ships, and the Force, of course — not all of which George Lucas could work effectively into his prequels. But the idea that Han, Luke, Chewie, and Leia are legends themselves puts the new characters on the same level as the audience: we’re in awe. We’re watching the new heroes while they’re watching their heroes; yeah, we’re watching them, too, so it’s all fairly meta.
Is it perfect? Alas, no. Awesome? Hells yeah. The new movie relies heavily on what audiences already know, so it’s as much a sequel as well as a continuing reboot. It also wastes no time getting into the story introducing Rey (Daisy Ridley), Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), but the situations escalate a bit too quickly to rush into a convenient conclusion. Imagine being introduced to a computer for the first time, watching a hacker bust a password, then being able to access a national security firm’s private server on your first try. Worse yet, it isn’t just one character that seems to be instantly awesome at things they’ve only just discovered. One Paul Atreides-type hero is acceptable to fulfill Dune’s “chosen one” trope, but three or four characters? Without room to grow or improve, it stretches credibility — even using the Force for an excuse.
We also don’t have all the facts from this episode regarding our new heroes. A quick glance through the trailer reveals characters being able to do things that we have to take on faith — without going into specifics — and that there are valid reasons why they act as they do or have the skill set they have. Overall, there is a “cool” factor with Star Wars that lends itself to belief; okay, sure, the way things happened, how characters meet one another, how easy or how hard it is to succeed seem to be flexible as long as it looks cool. If it looks like Star Wars and feels like Star Wars, there is a certain amount of flexibility allowed in both story and physics that as long as the aforementioned criteria is met. If not, it can always be dismissed with lines such as “the Empire doesn’t consider a small one-man fighter to be any threat, or they’d have a tighter defense.” Foolish bad guys; the heroes are going to win because of your overconfidence!
One thing that stood out many times in the film is the clever way action informed dialogue, creating situations where the simplest words or phrase held enormous impact for what wasn’t said. To use a classic and contextual example, fans already know to expect “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” moments before a big reveal or something going terribly wrong. After the disjointed, midichlorian-filled, Jar Jar-induced prequels, Episode VII not only picks up where our favorite characters are but asks the kind of questions that fans love speculating upon. To call a film like this critic-proof is an understatement, but secret threads on social media are already picking their nits and debating theories; it’s going to be a tough wait to see what happens next.
If you’ve seen it, join us below and talk about the Dark Side.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)