Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie Review: 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is awesome and you should see it.

I say this as a casual, non-geek Star Wars fan. I don't obsess over the universe. Though I've seen four of the seven films in the theater, this is the first one I saw during its original run. (And in fact, I've still never seen Attack of the Clones.) What childhood obsession I had was limited mostly to toys, Return of the Jedi Dixie cups and that night my grandmother got me stoked for a showing of the original film on CBS. And once when I was five, I wore a Darth Vader mask to visit my great-aunt in the nursing home.

Because of course I did.
Otherwise, I've enjoyed Star Wars movies as I do most things: as hours of highly entertaining, escapist fantasy. And none of them — not even Phantom Menace — have disappointed. (So clearly, I don't have the same hang-ups as hardcore fans — not that I'm saying I don't generally agree with their assessments.) 

It's also worth nothing that, as much as I enjoy Star Wars and the Marvel universe films in particular, I think it's a sad commentary on the state of Hollywood that seemingly 95 percent of films being made between now and the 2020 presidential election are episodes of well-worn sci-fi franchises. Geekdom isn't just mainstream these days; it's practically the Empire.

So when I say The Force Awakens was the first movie since Back to the Future II where the sequel teaser made me want to stay in the theater to immediately watch what hasn't even been finished yet, you know I'm talking about a quality film.

I won't get into the particulars, though I will say that a major plot development was spoiled for me on a random, unrelated Facebook thread by some Sith lord who took time to make a meme of it with a still from the movie. I was hoping that sociopath was wrong, but he wasn't. (Though many other "spoilers" and other speculation I heard turned out to be dead wrong.) Still, you probably could have read the entire plot outline to me Wikipedia-style beforehand and that would have barely diminished the experience of seeing it on screen.

Taking the franchise out of George Lucas' hands was exactly the spark it needed. For all the callbacks The Force Awakens offered, it's also a standalone story that stands out. With some finessing, it could have been repurposed as another film. That is a compliment. Anytime a beloved franchise offers forth new protagonists, it runs the risk of us not caring about them. Here, you care about all of them. I'm aching to know what lies ahead for Rey, Finn and Poe. Going in, I wasn't sure I would.

The Force Awakens has all the right elements of the Star Wars universe and none of the wrong ones, and offers all-new canon that, refreshingly, doesn't smack of, "We need to keep this going, so here."

Go see it. Even if you already have.

No comments: