1983: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi comes out in theaters. The world cheered. The movie has since grossed $252.6 million (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=starwars6.htm), and changed the world. Then 1999 came, and Episode I: The Phantom Menace was released. It gave people hope that the series would be closed, that the prequel trilogy would be better than the original trilogy, and there would be more great Star Wars movies to get behind. We were wrong. What we got was a prequel trilogy (PT) that did show us the rise of a young boy named Anakin Skywalker, and his fall to the dark side, becoming Darth Vader. Audiences finally learned how the masked Sith, who uttered probably the most memorable words of a generation (“No, Luke, I AM your father!” *awkward breathing*), while also receiving some of the most awkward acting out of what would become a main staple in the PT (cough Hayden Christensen cough). Overall, I enjoyed the ride of the Prequel Trilogy. I looked past the awkward acting of Attack of the Clones, enjoyed the story and direction of Phantom Menace, and LOVED everything about Revenge of the Sith, definitely the best of the PT.
The prequel Trilogy left a bad taste in the mouths of a LOT of Star Wars fans, both older (having watched the release of the originals) and young (born after the originals came out but still grew up watching them). Then, the world stood still as Episode 7: The Force Awakens was announced. It stood still again once the first trailer was released. The hype train of Episode 7 was beginning to match, if not eclipse, the announcement of the prequel trilogy and the beginning of what could have been the end of Star Wars. December 17th, 2015 the world was going to collectively smile as we began a new journey.
A long time ago
In a galaxy far away…
I see the Lucasfilms logo. I smile. I see the above text, my eyes water.
Pops on the screen, tears fall down my face. I, like everyone in the audience, read the scrolling text intently; there was nothing that we wanted to miss. Once it was over, I knew that we would be in for a very fun ride, full of questions that I wanted answered (thanks commercials).
J.J. Abrams did a WONDERFUL job with this movie. He captured the beauty and emotion of A New Hope, and added a little extra flair. It was all there, the lonesome hero looking to change his/her life, sudden need for change, their hunt for something new and exciting, and of course, Han, Chewie, and the always beautiful Millennium Falcon. Rather than just leave it at that, however, Abrams added new themes with the morally torn second hero, and a fun twist with the reveal of who exactly Kylo Ren is, and why he’s always talking to Darth Vader’s lifeless mask.
The worlds’ landscape designs were great, but felt borrowed from previous installments in the series. Jakku felt like Tattooine, Takodana felt like a mixture of Endor and Kashyyyk, and the Starkiller Base..well yeah. Starkiller Base was probably the best planetary design in the movie. It was something new, and while similar to the Death Star, it was also different in itself. The biggest differences sitting in size, as well as livability—the surface was able to sustain human life. It was snowy however, which while adding a nice touch to the environmental concept, reminded me of Hoth and how unoriginal the location designs really were. Not a major take away, but definitely something to keep in mind while looking big picture.
The characters were done extremely well, and definitely made me feel an emotional attachment to all of them, just like the previous movies. I really felt for Rey as her story developed, and for Finn when his was revealed. The biggest twist of the movie comes with Kylo Ren. Without spoiling the movie and his backstory, I will simply say that he is a rather large segment of the movie, and his real self will be something that will be talked about over coffee for years to come.
Rey is definitely the Luke Skywalker of this first movie: someone looking to change her life and explore the galaxy. The difference comes in terms of family: while Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru were killed and burned by Stormtroopers, Rey’s family is nowhere to be seen. Her run in with Finn leads her to explore the galaxy and change from a scavenger to becoming an adventurer.
Finn’s story is something that is not new to the Star Wars universe (following Episode 3), but is not mentioned as much leading into Episode 7. As per Episode 2, all Stormtroopers were clones of bounty hunter Jango Fett. That is no more following Revenge of the Sith. Whether you read the original, no longer canon to film Expanded Universe (EU) or are familiar with the new canon to film EU, you will know that Stormtroopers have since been kidnapped and trained from childhood to be soldiers for The First Order. Finn is one of those children grown to an adult. After some events that occur in the movie, he no distances himself from the First Order and falls in with Rey and BB-8, and later Han and Chewbacca. Throughout the film I got the sense that he would become the Han for the new generation through his mannerisms, attitude, actions, tone, and sarcasm.
Kylo Ren is everything you wanted Anakin Skywalker to be in Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith. He is a loose cannon, force using, claymore-esque lightsaber using young adult that doesn’t like when things don’t go his way, and he’s not afraid to show it! While he is the man antagonist in this movie looking to “complete what Vader started,” he’s also inexplicably filling the role of a Vader-like character, at half the age! He’s working with the First Order while also working toward his own personal goal. He’s also good for a laugh at two different fits of rage.
When I say he is everything you wanted Anakin to be (HORRIBLE acting in Episode II, for example), I mean that in the sense that he actually FEELS his emotions and EXPRESSES them. He’s angry? He breaks out his lightsaber and destroys a console. He’s sad, he sheds a tear and moves on. He’s happy, well you don’t really get to see him be happy since that’s not really who he is, but the point is made. Every Jedi ever said to always “mind your feelings,” like having them is such a bad thing, we’re all emotional. He explores his feelings and has no problem expressing them, unlike Anakin Skywalker in Clone Wars and Revenge (he never truly felt his feelings, at least he never showed it anyways). Hell, even Ren’s lightsaber reflects his emotional state: the damn thing fizzles, flares, cracks and just straight up SOUNDS angry. His character was designed greatly, almost as badass as Darth Maul..ALMOST!
When it’s all said and done, and the tears dry and the final credits roll (no post credit scenes), I was left sitting in my seat wanting more. I highly recommend that EVERYONE (and their mothers) go see it, and see it again, and again. See it as many times as possible while it is in theaters so that you can form a fan theory and share them with others and have wonderful discussions. This is definitely the best movie of 2015 in my book, and it gets a 9.5/10. “If it’s so great, why not give it a perfect 10?” you might ask. The answer is because the world’s felt too borrowed, the movie felt too much like A New Hope to me, which isn’t bad, but it’s also not good. I’m glad that the franchise is getting three more movies and I like that this movie was the best of the 4 newest movies, but I also wanted something new.