And so it begins, a Disney Star Wars movie. Disney had its share of false starts when it started venturing away from such titles as “Superdad” and “The Apple Dumpling Gang” to its first PG-rated movie, a sci-fi action flick no less, the box office flop that was 1979’s “The Black Hole.” At the time, it was deemed too expensive for Disney to use some Star Wars magic and rent equipment from George Lucas and his Industrial Light and Magic. Of course, all that was a long time ago. After the Disney buyout of Lucas to the tune of $4.05 billion, would Disney gain some real Star Wars cred? The goal seems to be met.
This Star Wars movie had to be better than the last three installments and it had to harken back to that something special from the original, without kowtowing to it. Were the Egyptian pyramids this intimidating to build? Yes, I think so. When I read Lev Grossman wax on about Star Wars in Time magazine, it felt like he was describing something too big to fail. When I saw the Star Wars special edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live, I saw in J.J. Abrams one relieved dude. The major players from the cast were there with Mr. Abrams. And they too looked relieved, after having carried a mighty weight upon their shoulders. They had all survived an enterprise involving enough money to bankroll a number of countries’ annual budgets.
This movie was designed to not disappoint anyone. And, if you believe the speculation from diehard fans, the opening line says it all, “This will begin to make things right.” The opening line is recited by Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) at the prospect of finding a gone missing Luke Skywalker. But, as core fans will tell you, it sure sounds like a coded message related to fans’ distaste for the Star Wars prequels. This is something that Abrams certainly took to heart.
There is no doubt that the shadow of the Star Wars legend looms larger than life here. An answer to R2-D2. Check. An answer to Han Solo. Check. An answer to Yoda. Check. And so on down the line to the Mos Eisley Cantina and Luke Skywalker’s X-34 Landspeeder. The sense of urgency to get it right is ferociously palpable. It is directed into every single scene by J.J. Abrams. Abrams wrote the final script with original trilogy writer Lawrence Kasdan. The two best new additions to the franchise: John Boyega as Finn, a runaway deserter; and Daisy Ridley as Rey, a reluctant new hero in touch with The Force.
Star Wars was never true science fiction. It was fantasy and, more to the point, a comment on fantasy. At its core, Star Wars was a quirky tribute by George Lucas, a nostalgic look back to Buck Rogers and action-packed pulp fiction. It was a nostalgia for childhood entertainment that was then reconfigured into something even more enchanting. By the time that the original trilogy was completed, George Lucas was done. So, it’s hard to really blame him for the direction he took with the prequels which was as far removed from the original source as possible. It was simply too early to get all nostalgic over something that was nostalgic to begin with. And, anyway, Harrison Ford would never have reprised his role at that point. More time would need to pass which brings us to what amounts to this fun revisit.
But how often can you successfully tap into nostalgia with a franchise like Star Wars? As the James Bond franchise has learned, it all needs to be measured out in proper doses. For now, it looks like a new trilogy has been mapped out that holds on to what made Star Wars worthwhile to begin with. In the end, at its best, Star Wars was an eccentric notion by an eccentric guy named George Lucas. It’s now a franchise designed to not disappoint anyone.
20 responses to “Movie Review: STAR WARS: EPISODE VII – THE FORCE AWAKENS”
Great post Henry, I’ve always been more of a Star Trek (science fiction as opposed to fantasy) fan but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Star Wars as well. I enjoyed The Force Awakens but found there to be one too many nostalgiac nods to the past.
Look forward to seeing where they go with the rest of the new trilogy.
I went in with an open mind and I’m hardly a Grinch when it comes to Star Wars. Sure, I was moved by the best scenes just like anyone else. I do wonder if it was inevitable to have this one play out the way that it did.
I enjoyed The Black Hole.
Oh, sorry, did not mean to step on anyone’s toes. I recall The Black Hole as rather plodding along. But I’ll have to revisit it some time.
I’ve been waiting for your Star Wars:The Force Awakens review. I love the direction you took it in, just as I truly enjoyed the movie.
Yes, Star Wars proves to be a fun holiday gift. Story-wise, it could have taken things further. It makes me think of how well-oiled the Marvel Comics movies are. As you know, there are plenty of possible Star Wars stories to tell from comics and novels. Will we get to the point where Star Wars movies are not handled with kid gloves? Will we get to where there is freedom to take creative risks? Well, we’ll just have to see.
I can appreciate a riskier Star Wars.
Yes, that would be good. Time will tell. The creative teams will have plenty of time to figure it out after this new trilogy has run its course.
Really, I saw it as a Disney Money grab. The new yoda looked like a Minion from Despicable ME, Rey was Jennifer Lawrence from Hunger Games, and Finn was Shia Labeouf from Transformers, Even the supreme leader or whatever it was looked like Voldemort from Harry Potter. Add the fact that the movie was a remake disguised as a new movie. It felt really dumbed down too….like more of a kids movie than anything else. Just felt like Disney wanted a return on investment over substance or creativity.
Yeah, that’s entertainment! If enough people say they want something, it can happen. The core fans did not want to follow the prequel route, and that got heard for sure.
Hollywood is only going for the remakes. This was a remake disguised as a new movie.
That’s well put. Disney assumed they they had no choice with this one. But it’s not like audiences aren’t open to new Star Wars stories. Maybe the new test marketing will show that.
Hi Henry… it seems the new movie is a big hit… Now I can see why… your review highlights its main strengths… Besides, Disney masters the art of making great stories in the shape of films..
I am looking forward to watching it when it is released over here, which is usually months after the official launch in US.
All my best wishes and happy 2016 ahead. Aquileana ★🌟
Aquileana, it is definitely worth watching! The power of myth, of course, is well respected here. What I end up with is the fact that Star Wars is irresistible.
I enjoyed your review. Me and the husband went to see the movie on Christmas Eve. Husband is big Star Wars fan – he loves science fantasy and science fiction. I just went along for fun and with an open mind. We both enjoyed it for what it was – fun and entertaining with engaging characters and a fair bit of nostalgia.
Happy New Year to you, Henry 🙂
It was definitely worth seeing. Happy New Year to you!
Not perfect, but it’s still worthy of being seen and appreciated for what it sets out do and clearly sets up. Nice review.
I’m sure a lot is taken for granted. It’s a really fun movie.
Agreed!!! Let’s just say it was a good movie.. but far far from a great one (pun intended) #itsnoMadMax 😀 Happy 2016
I appreciate your comment, Peggy. Happy 2016!