Star Wars. Nothing but Star Wars. Don’t let them end.
The wait is over and the word is already out. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is this year’s coolest movie ever made. It easily shattered the opening-day box office record, thanks to millions of people like myself who couldn’t wait even one more day to see the latest installment in the greatest movie franchise ever made.
The Force Awakens is a more than a solid movie. It’s friggin’ awesome, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing it again. For us age-old fans who have been waiting since the mid-1980s for the continuation of the Star Wars saga (yep, ignoring Episodes I, II, and III here), there have been a lot of questions about what came after Emperor Palpatine was tossed down the tubes and Anakin Skywalker was redeemed.
For instance, how smooth was the transition from the Galactic Empire to the New Republic? Did Han and Leia live happily ever after? Was Luke able to reestablish the Jedi Order?
As it turns out, the answers are: not good; not exactly; and hell no.
Director J.J. Abrams, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, could have gone in any direction he wanted when it came to exploring life after Return of the Jedi.
George Lucas, while allowing the Star Wars universe to expand with books, TV shows, video games, toys, comics, etc., wisely ruled some time ago that the future after Jedi was off-limits to new stories. This made it possible to take the new trilogy into any direction he chose. Or, as it ultimately turned out, any direction Disney chose.
The final product is a story that is remarkably similar to the original Star Wars film, A New Hope. There’s the young hero (well, heroine) with a mysterious past yearning for adventure, the charming droid carrying important information that everyone wants, the old warrior who offers guidance and assistance, the evil military force with an even more evil weapon. And so on and so on. There are more moments of déjà vu than even Yogi Berra could appreciate.
Make no mistake, though. This is not simply a rehash of what has worked before, and it is much more than a reboot for a new generation. In just about any other film franchise, where the stakes are repeated and just get more blown up – Jurassic World, Transformers, Fast and the Furious, every Stallone or Schwarzenegger sequel – everything just gets stale and predictable.
If you’re a skeptic who has no appreciation of Star Wars, you could make the argument that this franchise is no different than any other money machine, just larger and more efficient. Evil keeps popping up, devising new and impressive ways to blow up worlds. Good guys are constantly overwhelmed, and the oh-so-powerful-supercool Jedi keep getting their butts kicked and scattered to the outer worlds. And the Force never seems to come into balance.
Okay, I’ll grant you, that galaxy far, far away is (was?) a pretty dysfunctional place. But this is Star Wars we’re talking about here. If you were, like me, in on this one at the ground floor with the original trilogy, you’ll never forget the magic that appeared before your eyes in that darkened theater. And the fact that the franchise is still attracting new fans after all this time is a testament to its enduring entertainment value.
And, I’ll argue this point with anyone, anytime, anywhere. Star Wars in general, and The Force Awakens in particular is just straight up good filmmaking. It’s based on the mythic structure that has powered our storytelling since we were drawing on cave walls. And it is filled with just the sort of action, adventure, humor, and edge-of-your-seat excitement that makes a film worth viewing again and again. And again and again and… well, you get the idea.