Another Opinion: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
PG-13 | 135 min
Director: J.J. Abrams
Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
by Joe Rodriguez
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is not a perfect film. Some of the characters are undercooked. The plot propels forward at such a breakneck pace there almost isn’t any time to enjoy the scenery or explore its new world. The final assault lacks the emotional tension of the Deathstar trench run. Max von Sydow and Oscar Issac are underutilized at felony levels.
However I struggle to think of another cinematic experience that had anything close to the same impact on me. For 2 hours last night I was seven years old, laying on the shag carpet in my parents basement, watching a VHS copy of “A New Hope” taped off of Showtime and playing with my model X-Wing. For 2 hours, Santa Claus was real, I could still be an astronaut and I was going to get everything I wanted for my birthday. No subsequent viewing of The Force Awakens will ever do that to me again, but for a few hours last night, there I was.
I realize that this won’t be everyone’s experience with this movie. My fiancée was in the seat next to me and though she loved the movie, she didn’t cry when she saw Threepio or audibly gasp when she saw the Millennium Falcon. But I did, and so did a lot of other people in that theater. I wasn’t the only one who suddenly re-discovered his capacity for awe and his ability to imagine.
At it’s very core, that is what Star Wars has always been about for me. Star Wars was my first opportunity to explore and be excited by a new and fantastic world. All it took for me to enter into it was to take the elements placed before me on that ratty old VHS and use my imagination to bring them to life. George Lucas could show me thirty frames of an alien in a dusty cantina, and I could fill in it’s backstory with my own mind. Those thirty frames and the hint that it could exist was all I needed to fill in the background with even more fantastic stories. The Force Awakens simply reminded me of a time when I, when we all, had the capacity to imagine.
And for that reason alone, you can count The Force Awakens as a success. Take note: this is how you do a reboot. Every frame drips with love and reverence for the source material, because it’s J.J. Abrams’ childhood too. The careful assessment of “What is Star Wars?” paid off in spades. And by doing his homework, J.J. tapped into a reservoir of emotion long-forgotten by decades of jobs and taxes and general “adulting.” What other movie has ever done that to us? What other movie ever will?