by Matt Wincherauk
The things that you’ve heard about Star Wars: The Force Awakens being a return to form… It’s true. All of it.
After over ten years of waiting, the Star Wars franchise has returned to the world of cinema with vengeance with a film that is currently dominating the box office weeks after its initial debut. But was it good? Well, you should probably know which way I’m leaning after that opening sentence playing off one of the quotes from one of the film’s many trailers. Yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a legitimately very good movie and brings us back to the days of the original trilogy with the likes of Princess Leia, Han Solo and slightly loveable, and slightly annoying C-3PO returning to the franchise. While the stink of the prequels can never be fully removed from this franchise, The Force Awakens proves that there is a lot of new and fresh material to explore within the Star Wars universe, and people are more than willing to pay to see it.
The biggest complaint that I’ve heard about The Force Awakens is that the film borrows too heavily from the original, but to be honest, that doesn’t bother me that much. J.J. Abrams realized that he had to go back to what made the original trilogy so special. That’s the practical effects, the complex family drama, and the cool space battles.
Abrams also managed to create about four new major characters in Finn, Ray, Poe and Kylo Ren, with as much depth and complexity as the original fearsome foursome of Luke, Han, Leia and Darth Vader. There’s no incessant whining, there’s no boring political talk and there’s certainly no Jar Jar Binks (even though it would’ve been a ton of fun if the Darth Jar Jar theory ended up being true). The only real disappointment for me was that they created an incredibly badass looking characters in Captain Phasma played by Gwendoline Christie, but never really did anything of note. However, one disappointment can be understood in a movie of this magnitude and scope.
Ultimately, Star Wars: The Force Awakens does what any good blockbuster movie should: be enjoyable. It’s an action-packed thrill ride from start to finish that gives us unique characters in a very unique universe. I ultimately found that The Force Awakens felt like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie with the jokes and simply enjoyable atmosphere that it gave us. However, it’s emotional, and gives us one of the single saddest moments in the entire series. How many movies can you say have a scene where the entire theatre just breaks from sadness? Star Wars: The Force Awakens manages to have one of those scenes.
So, go see this movie. Get involved in this giant universe of ridiculous character designs, and magical, laser-sword wielding wizards. Star Wars: The Force Awakens set out to be a fun, enjoyable return to form, and it succeeded in spades. The only truly crushing thought that I had leaving the theatre is that I have to wait another eighteen months until Episode VIII.
Against Episode Seven
by John Kapp
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s loud. It’s fast. It’s the seventh instalment in the Star Wars series, or How I learned to drink a well dry.
In the wake of seeing the Force awakened, I am often reminded, “well, at least it wasn’t a prequel.” Watching this film, I was continually reminded of things I’ve already seen. Say what you will about nostalgia, looking backward precludes one from looking forward.
In this film, nostalgia holds the film back from presenting any sort of new story. We go from reused image to reused line to reused shot. Tenacious youth, deserted by their family befriends a plot-significant droid before hopping on-board the Millennium Falcon, befriending Han and Chewie, and blowing up a Deathstar. I’m just so fucking tired here, guys.
I get that it’s fan service. I understand the desire to have something you love, but can’t we strive or at least fucking try to love something new?
Growing up and well into my adulthood, I loved Star Wars. You could say that I lived Star Wars. It was the greatest thing in the world to almost an entire generation of Western youth. Thanks largely in part to Star Wars, my generation was one of the last to grow up with a true sense of possibility.
Where the Star Trek series’ and films were utopian, presenting a vision of the galaxy under space-communism, the Star Wars films recognized that the old world was not going to die of age. In the new film, we see that the Rebellion has given way to the Republic, which we don’t really see or have explained for us beyond their planet(s) being exploded by the new Deathstar. Which isn’t a Deathstar. It’s just the exact same, but different.
Are the Republic and Resistance the same thing? Much like America has acted for the last century-plus of its history, one may be both. By positioning itself as the victim of aggression, the United States has been able to position itself as the victimized underdog, even when destroying the indigenous societies of Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
Along this line are the First Order Nazis or Talibans? Both? There’s nothing worse than a film that just can’t get its shit together, semiotically. It seems much more tragic when that film cost 200 million dollars to make and will go on to make billions.
There are kernels of something good or decent in The Force Awakens. They are just buried under too much confused crap to be of any real value. The new films serve to eradicate thirty-seven years of continuity built through novelizations, video games, and the like, relegating post-Jedi novels into the Legends universe – far removed from real fake continuity. Is Star Wars a beautiful film? Sure, of course it is beautiful – give me that kind of money and a team of cinematic professionals and I could make a pretty movie that just lifts major plot details from its literal forbearers.
If you are a diehard Star Wars fan who just wants to see things they know and are comfortable with, this one is great. If you were hoping that $200,000,000 could do more than re-make a movie you saw decades ago, maybe check out the Revenant or something raw like that.
I am excited to see Poe cut open a space-horse and shove a barely-living Rey or Finn inside of it for warmth on a planet resembling Hoth but definitely different, because you see, it will have a different name.