I’m not the most dedicated enthusiast to cultish trends, but my obsession with Star Wars has entered the murky realm between true aficionado and perceived George Lucas Bandwagoner. I saw the entire series only a few short months ago, although I consider rewatching all six episodes multiple times during finals week an impressive feat. However, like Lord of the Rings, I am fanatical about this iconic pop culture staple because of its thrilling quality, unforgettable characters (minus Jar Jar), and shifty morals. I already bought two Star Wars shirts, Darth Vader socks, and a Chewbacca folder in anticipation of The Force Awakens, despite the fact that I’m allergic to nonsensical and kitschy merchandise in general. But who could resist a Han Solo book with that devilish and debonair face plastered on the front?
When I discovered the newest film was sold out on Sunday evening, I clutched my head in despair and tapped out a jig of anxiety outside the grimy box office window—it wasn’t even Friday or Saturday night, when I knew all the tickets had already bit the Fandango dust! However, a short but memorable car ride later, I was lining up to see The Force Awakens in another theater with no damage done to my enthusiasm. All in all, I would rate the film an 8 out of 10, which was much higher than I originally intended to. Thinking about the rather terrible first and second episodes (damn it Natalie Portman!), I was braced for unoriginality, poor acting, and unnecessary characters. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the gripping tale and the never-ending world of Star Wars that captivates millions with its star-studded endurance and cultural importance.
One of the best parts of this movie was the unique camera angles and superior film skills that were demonstrated throughout the two hours and fifteen minutes. The wide angle panoramas, while completely fabricated and obviously imaginary, were jaw dropping. For example, the dysfunctional mammoth of a star destroyer lying agedly on the deserts of Jakku was stunning. Its faded green surface and gigantic scale created the feeling of isolation, dashed glory, and creaking joints, especially amidst the barren landscape. However, this relic of a dead past brought up another question—was Jakku supposed to mimic the land of Tatooine, the famed birthplace of Anakin and Luke Skywalker? And how does Rey, the unstoppable girl in beige that touts her newfound strength with the Force, fit into this intergalactic puzzle? Rey was an incredible character, and I was pleasantly surprised by her grit and lack of shallowness that Natalie Portman (Padme/Queen Amidala) possessed. I would not be shocked if Rey turned out to be Luke’s long lost daughter or Kylo Ren’s fabled twin.
Speaking of Kylo Ren, I was in two minds about his invented character of forced badassery and uncontrollable angst. Anger issues were apparent in his light saber rage, but it wasn’t his weak personality and shifting morality that annoyed me. Kylo Ren (also known as Ben, Han and Leia’s son) was too much of a Darth Vader imitator, with nothing original about his facemask built of mystique and smoker’s lungs. His shrine to his grandfather was chilling, especially considering Luke burned his father’s mangled corpse on a raging pyre thirty years previously. My gut proclaims to me that Kylo Ren will turn to the good side, although his sketchy/underdeveloped Jedi skills were a disappointment. How can Rey, who has never flexed her apparent (and ample) Force skills before, nearly defeat Kylo Ren, a youth who was presumably instructed in the Jedi ways by Luke Skywalker himself? His want of skill, combined with the fact that he murdered his stud-muffin father in a manner similar to Darth/Luke in Episode Five, was irksome.
Kylo Ren was working for the First Order, the reimagined Empire that channeled Nazi Germany more than the wicked ways of the Imperial fleet. The scene where the ruthless captain (who also appeared in Harry Potter and Anna Karenina) proclaimed his doctrine of hate and trickery to his faceless Storm Troopers was bone chilling. Again, the wide angle shot, capturing the massive red banners and Troopers raising their robotic arms in a “heil Hitler” move, was extremely well done. One rather pointy bone I have to pick with J. J. Abrams is the blowing up of StarKiller Base, the newfangled Death Star on hypergalactic steroids. As in Episode Four, Resistance pilots were shown shooting at the reactor power bases and causing the base to implode. I was seeking more originality, but I guess this iconic redundancy is what makes Star Wars so timeless and exciting.
Despite the imploding StarKiller base, Stars Wars utterly bewitched me with the humorous quality of its new and returning characters. I loved BB-8, the new droid that was animated to the hilt and captured the audience with its unintelligible squeaks that were nonetheless adorable. The dialogue between the characters was also wittier than any exchanges in the first six Episodes. Finn, the “good guy” Storm Trooper, provided comedic relief along with the beloved C-3PO (who inserted his amusing quips left and right). And of course, R2-D2 whirring back to life brought deafening cheers from the audience as well as the first appearance of Chewie and his lovable roars. It was incredible how Chewie communicated his shredding despair when Han died simply by aching growls, rampage shooting, and a dash of explosives. In addition to the old favorites, I was oddly fond of Maz Kanata, the stunted lady more wrinkled than a dried up apricot with a wise aura similar to Yoda. Her words were succinct and unusual, but anyone who builds a colossal statue of themselves and employs a seedy, Cantina-like band is a tour-de-force character.
The suaveness of Han made me swoon and the lineless Luke with his gray hair swirling in the wind was moving, but Princess Leia Organa wasn’t what I expected. Compared to her strong personality in the 1970s films, she was muted, less brave, and channeled the “old person” vibe way more than Han or Luke. Carry Fisher just didn’t live up to her perceived grandeur of her glory days (perhaps owing to her cocaine addiction). However, I was thrilled beyond belief to see that The Force Awakens featured Skellig Michael, an abandoned island off the coast of Ireland where existential monks came to contemplate life in the 6th-8th centuries! Luke was definitely mimicking an ascetic (and Obi-Wan Kenobi) with his wild gray hair, fierce blue eyes, and beige robes that were twirling to infinity in the angry wind. Luke had finally transformed into the aged and legendary Jedi master that Yoda had become all those years ago in the Dagobah System. Read an article entitled “Always welcomed on Skellig, you are, Luke” here.
Overall, The Force Awakens was well done and worth the gut-wrenching $10.50 I paid to see it. When the yellow opening credits rolled and the empowering music gripped my ears and heart, I was carried away to a universe where electrified swords, mystifying restorers of peace, star destroyers, and lands of wasted deserts exist.