This Christmas was possibly the most amazing Christmas of my life. Usually, the month of December is crowded with commercialism, Christmas parties and dumb movies about a man who breaks into people’s houses. People talk about the spirit of Christmas that lingers in the air. However, this year, a different spirit was present: The Spirit of Star Wars.
Everywhere I went in the week leading up to the Star Wars premiere, there was a unifying excitement in the air. Wearing my Star Wars shirt, I entered into countless conversations with strangers about the upcoming movie. We swapped theories and made jokes about the universally hated Jar Jar Binks. Every fan wanted to talk about it, because as it drew closer the fear that The Force Awakens would be like the prequels grew stronger.
Thus, on December 17, 2015, the pressure was on as an entire generation held their breath to see what fate JJ Abrams had delivered to our screens. I personally saw the film at 11:15pm on the evening of December 17, 2015, and it was beautiful.
Director JJ Abrams did a great job at keeping the style of the film similar to the spirit of the original trilogy. There is one scene in a restaurant that hearkens back memories of the Cantina scene on Episode IV. The strange alien life is viewed from the perspective of a bystander simply observing the abnormal faces. Most importantly, the characters aren’t dominated by CGI. There is something about the obviously physical presence of these creatures that keeps the story from floating out into space. It feels grounded in reality to have actors walking onto a real set with real extras instead of a green screen.
Abrams also did a good job of keeping to the story structure of Star Wars. Each Episode in the original series stays to a classic story arc that is seen all throughout romantic literature. Take a new hope for instance: simple boy called out into an adventure, his mentor dies; he joins the rebels and finds a new master.
Now all these plot lines are mirrored in prequels. For example Episode I The Phantom Menace (usually I pretend this movie didn’t happen, but I need to make a point). The Phantom Menace features a simple boy who is called out into a space adventure, the elderly man who cares about him is killed and he finds a new master in the form of Obi-wan Kenobi.
Keeping with this trend, The Force Awakens is quite similar. This time, the young scavenger Rey, living on a sand planet called Jakku (which might as well be Tattooine), meets a droid with important Resistance (like the Rebels from the original trilogy but with a different name) information and ends up headed into space to protect it. She then comes across the well know War Hero and Scavenger Han Solo and his sidekick Chewbacca. Han takes on the role of the mentor for Rey. Then, after meeting with the Resistance and trying to take down Starkiller Base (yes like the Death Star), Han is killed by his son Kylo Ren.
What can we say about this? On one hand, it seems like a really safe move to stick so closely to the original trilogy. It made plenty of fans very happy to see old characters brought back to life, not to mention being whisked off on an adventure that feels familiar and fresh at the same time.
However, that hopeful statement comes with a word of caution. With a plethora of movie to follow in the rebooted franchise, Star Wars cannot continue to cling to the past. Episode VII should be a launching bad for upcoming fresh material where we can explore the new characters we were introduced to. Yes, the Star Wars plans needed The Force Awakens to restore our faith in the franchise and remind us why we love Star Wars. However, this fandom is an intelligent enough crowd to swallow some new plot lines and unique perspectives in the next several episodes.
The Force Awakens recaptured our hearts; only time will tell if it can keep them.