The Force Awakens, reawakening my love for Star Wars

I saw it.

I had my doubts. After the prequels, we all did. After hearing it was sold to Disney, I got a bit excited, but then Abrams made ‘Into Darkness’ and… well, we know how that one went.

I feared a senseless, impossible to follow plot. I feared endless battle and fight scenes that had no consequence or reason. I feared being bashed over the head with nostalgia, and I feared the new characters would be just bit parts while grandma and grandpa hobbled around saving the day.

But there is no need to worry. The Force Awakens is better than the prequels. It could even be on par with the original trilogy. It’s that good.

It of course, had some problems, like any movie, but lets start out with what it did right.

For starters… it was an actual movie! Unlike the prequels, it had a plot I could understand, and characters who’s motivations stayed consistent throughout the story. Even if they were simple motivations, they were there. This is already a giant leap beyond the prequels, and beyond many action movies today, whose directors seem more and more to be happy with their movies being basically a series of non-sequitur action scenes.

Next, it wasn’t ‘too much’. I won’t say it was toned down, because it was definitely action packed and exciting, but, the action had consequence. You CARED what happened. It was more than just flashing lights on the screen. When there is a million ships covering every inch of the screen and thousands of guys with glowing swords flipping all over the place, and I don’t know who any of them are or why I should care who dies… then I don’t care. The Force Awakens kept me clear on who was doing what, and why–and who was in trouble–the whole time.

The Nostalgia was subtle, and not overdone, tiring or irritating. It was done lovingly, as if by a true fan, by someone who understands WHY people loved Star Wars. Not some blind executive thinking ‘hmm, people like those aliens and ships… shove those into every inch of the screen, then they’ll REALLY love it!’

The sets were creative, and interesting to look at. The desert where we start, full of dead ships being slowly torn apart by scavengers, is a great example of someone actually trying to create their own world and ideas, instead of just copy-pasting from the originals. There are a few other really great locations in this movie but I’ll avoid spoilers.

The new characters were great. They had personalities, they had their own characteristics. I know, I’m describing what makes a character a character, but it seems so hard for Hollywood to get these days. Take the prequels for example. One of my favorite movie review sites, redlettermedia.com, in their famous review of The Phantom Menace, asked people to simply describe the characters in Episode One… and it’s very hard. When you have an empty shell of a character with no desires or goals or fears or anything, all you can describe is their costume. Watch this video to see what I mean. The part I’m talking about starts at 6:40.

I did however, have some problems with the character arcs in The Force Awakens. It seems the characters completed their arcs instantly, with no effort. They go from weak to strong, for example, with no training or struggle. They go from wanting to run away, to returning to help fight… with nothing spurring their decision, no epiphany or lesson. They just… change.

But in the end, I still remember them, I still like them, and I’m wanting to watch them more!

My last complaint is that Solo and Chewie got way too much screen time, and were really a distraction from the new characters. Watching a 70 year old Ford running around shooting at aliens was almost sad, and I would really have preferred if he had been there as a wise advisor, letting the new kids know whats up–like an Obi-Wan figure–instead of running around doing crazy action moves and saving the day.

But these are small complaints in an overall great movie. I am excited for the next one, and will probably watch this one again before it’s out of the theaters!

I am so happy to be enjoying a Star Wars film again. I never thought I would experience that excitement and curiosity and drama again, but I have, and it’s great.

And, I think this could finally beat Mad Max to be my favorite movie of the year!

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