And so does the box office. This review is spoiler-free!
So, after much waiting, and uncertainty of what the Disney purchase of the Star Wars franchise would bring, I have to say I am pleased overall. Now granted, I am not a mega fan. I don’t obsess over every detail and I don’t know every aspect of the Expanded Universe (which has been scrapped by Disney in order to retain canon rights with their revitalization of the franchise) but I have played a lot of Star Wars games (KOTOR, Jedi Outcast series, Rogue Leader), I’ve watched and re-watched all the movies, and I’ve even watched the Clone Wars animated series that was on Cartoon Network. That means I have some vested interest in Star Wars, and I do have some walking around knowledge above the average movie goer.
Does Episode 7 satisfy? In short, yes. There were so many ways that this could have been a devastating flop. It’s not. Far from it. I think most fanboys and casual viewers will love it. Of course, some fanboys will complain – but there’s always something to whine about so I couldn’t care less. This is a solid entry worthy of the Star Wars name. A worthy revitalization of the franchise, and a very respectful albeit cautious first attempt with Disney’s pricey new IP.
The film opens about 30 years after the collapse of the Galactic Empire and destruction of the second Death Star, but it seems that even though the Republic has been restored, there’s a sinister element lurking in the background – The First Order, a zealous remnant of the fallen Empire that is building another super-weapon and plotting to regain the control it once held over the galaxy by eliminating the peaceful but largely ineffective bureaucratic mess that is the New Galactic Republic by any means necessary. The parallels drawn to The First Order and the rise of fascism in our own reality are frightening and I’m sure are intentional – this is akin to a neo-nazi group – someone who knows exactly what happened in the past and still thinks that’s the only way to create a new society. It is inherently more despicable to double down on the heinous actions of a previous evil and take it even farther. This ‘new’ Star Wars captures that essence. It feels raw, scary, pretty damn unpredictable in that manner, and I like it. It is a theme that I have always appreciated Star Trek for over Star Wars – Trek has always been more rooted in exploring the real tragedy that is humanity, versus feel-good stories of redemption and clear cut lines between ‘good’ and ‘evil’. Star Wars comes off as childish a lot of the time because of a lack of real development in characters and circumstance (extended universe stories excluded).
Episode 7 has the same general layout of Episode 4: A New Hope (aka the original ‘Star Wars’ before it all got so huge). This is where they really knocked it out of the park because it surely brings all the fans of the original trilogy, as well as the younger generations who grew up with the prequel trilogy together on the same page. It brings the best of both sagas in the franchise and binds them together (cool characters AND even better effects!), setting the scene for a new set of stories that will tell the story of a new generation of Jedi fighting against a new generation of evil in the galaxy. The hints of a living connection to the Skywalker bloodline are strong, and the power of a wayward and truly disaffected child gone rouge has the potential to tear the galaxy apart.
The Force Awakens takes us to places that we are used to in Star Wars lore – a desert planet, ancient temples, eclectic galactic bar scenes, and of course, lightsaber duels. It appeals to both sides of the aisle of Star Wars fandom, and kicks off the final trilogy of the Skywalker saga with some real heady content. I see great connections to the past players, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess now-turned-General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), and of course Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). We get to see the face of a new generation strong in the force (but very possibly blurring that line) between Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn, a defecting storm trooper (John Boyega), and a ‘new’ generation of rebels like pilots Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac) and Snap Wexley (Greg Grunberg).
Perhaps the most exciting character to me is Kylo-Ren (Adam Driver). He is a raw, seething, and wholly incomplete villain who may not be as lost as he appears. Serving the evil and mysterious leader of the New Order, Snoke (Andy Serkis) – he reminds me a lot of a character in the vein of a Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. Someone who has been groomed to hate and commit heinous acts, but somewhere deep within remains a redeemable, human being. There’s precedent for that in Star Wars, obviously, but it will be nice if Episodes 8 and 9 will not be as cut and dry or predictable as this one ultimately was.
I love all the new characters – BB-8, Poe Dameron, Snap Wexley, Finn, Rey, Kylo-Ren, Supreme Leader Snoke, Captain Phasma, Maz – the stories that should unfold are likely to be quite an adventure. What I do know is that this is one of my favorites in the series so far, and look forward to more Star Wars. That’s the one thing we can count on with Disney at the reins. The expanded universe is set to be bolstered too, with Rogue One and Solo slated to come.
Gold Squid Rating
The Force has definitely (re)awakened!