Yes, this is a late review, but there really isn’t a reason to rush to review what will undoubtedly become one of the highest grossing films of all time. You’ve seen it, and if you haven’t, you probably will. The movie is barely a couple of weeks old and already the rant wars have flooded the internet with endless debates on whether TFA is homage or rip-off, sensation or just plain lazy.
Me? I enjoyed it immensely.
Saw it twice. Loved it both times. Sure, it’s not the finest piece of cinema ever created. And yes, the story could have been more original and less heavy-handed in its nostalgic approach to the original films. But bottom line, TFA was entertaining and fun. What’s wrong with that?
I’m one of those people who loved the original films and pretty much despise the prequels. I’m one of those people who found George Lucas’ tinkering with the original movies downright maddening. (Han shot first. CGI Jabba sucks. Darth Vader doesn’t scream ‘NOOOooooooo’ when he kills the emperor. Bobba Fett’s voice was fine the way it was. And what was with that terrible musical number at Jabba’s den?) I’m one of those people who held out on buying the originals on Blu-Ray because I was still hoping to get an unaltered release. (Finally bought them when The Force Awakens. Haven’t watched them. And the prequels? Don’t make me laugh.) I’m one of those guys who occasionally drops Star Wars quotes in conversations, particularly when around other fans. So you might say I had a vested interest and rapidly building excitement for the new movie.
I wasn’t disappointed.
I really liked the characters of Rey and Finn. They make great companions for entering this new but instantly familiar world. The actors did a fantastic job with their roles. They possessed great chemistry and brought the energy and fun the movie needed. This Star Wars is obviously aimed at netting a new generation, and I’m sure legions of new young fans were born with this film. Let the role-playing of Rey and Finn commence.
At the same time, who better to go along for the ride than Han and Chewie? The writers did a great job with that selection. Let’s face it, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill have been out of the public eye for a while, save for cult fans that have followed their careers. But Harrison Ford has been with us all this time. We’ve watched him age gracefully, so it’s not jarring at all to have him slip into the role of Han like a pair of well-worn boots. He is perfect as the reluctant but still resourceful guide to Finn and Rey. Through Han, Chewie, and the Falcon, we get one last ride through freewheeling nostalgia before things take a sobering but appropriate turn for the dramatic.
I experienced mix feelings about the character of Kylo Ren. While I was initially disappointed by his face reveal and tantrum throwing, I actually found that I enjoyed the handling of his character. The trailers gave us the impression of another Darth Vader, but Kylo is much more Anakin. In fact, it’s as if the writers created him as what Anakin should have been had the prequels actually worked. Kylo is young, powerful, and dangerous, but also emotionally unbalanced. He is driven by his passions, yet mentally weak enough to be manipulated, just as his grandfather was. In the end, I enjoyed how Kylo wasn’t just a Vader clone in another dark mask. I look forward to his development in the next two films, though the writers have to tread carefully. After killing his own father, I’d hate to see them go the ‘redemption’ route like Vader. It would be poetic justice to have Chewbacca be the one to take him out with his bowcaster instead of the inevitable lightsaber battle with Rey, but I’m not holding my breath. Plus, there’s the whole ‘stop a blaster ray in mid-air’ thing… (One of the coolest scenes in the movie.)
Some last thoughts/tidbits…
I enjoyed the improved, more deadly stormtroopers. Great design tweaks, and that lightsaber repellent staff…?!!!
I thought we’d get more from Leia. Of all the characters, hers is the one I feel they dropped the ball on the most. C’mon, she’s (arguably) the most iconic science fiction female of all time. Couldn’t she have gotten more to do?
Supreme Leader Snoke has to be the stupidest name ever for a character in a movie. That CGI was a bit snoky, too.
The Millennium Falcon will always be the best-designed spaceship in cinema.
The ending with Rey and Luke? EPIC.
And finally, no more massively powerful, instantly disposable super-weapons. That’s just lazy writing, people.
Look: if you pull at all the plot strings in this move, or most movies for that matter, the film will definitely unravel. For what it was worth, I truly enjoyed the experience of sitting in a theater of fans enjoying the first good Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi. I consider it to be on par with RotJ, making it a tie for the third best film in the franchise. I only hope the future films will separate themselves from the nostalgia trap and blaze a new path for fans new and old.
This is good start.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com