That was the very first line spoken in the new Star Wars film, and while it ostensibly involved a man handing over a map, there is no way that is not a slap to the face of George Lucas and an acknowledgement of the damage he had done with his last three films. And do you know what? This film backs up that line and more. After watching The Force Awakens, my faith in Star Wars has been restored.
Uh, no. This story is so full of potential spoilers that I’m not going to give you a plot. I will warn you, however, that some of the things I will talk about may... may be spoilers if you want to go into this one cold, which I recommend.
This Movie Was Fantastic!
So what am I going to talk about? I’m going to tell you what this film did right and why. And let me begin with my apologies to J.J. Abrams. After the total hack job he did to Star Trek, I expected the worst for this film. I expected him to exploit it with little care for the fans or the story. I was wrong. He did an amazing job.
Next, this film fit the storyline perfectly. In fact, it fit so perfectly that you could almost have dumped Return of the Jedi and run this instead and not only would it have felt like it fit, but it might even have improved the series.
Abrams was really smart too in terms of knowing what to keep and what to toss out of the prior films. I went in cold, so I didn’t know how much the original characters would be involved in this one. I suspected that Abrams would milk a cameo out of them and then rush off in some new direction. He didn’t. The original characters are vital to this film and the actors play them perfectly as the same people only a couple decades later. That was a smart decision because the story is so tied to several of them. It also avoids the sense that Abrams just wanted a younger cast.
At the same time, the storyline makes perfect sense for that time period. The Empire fell. Its ruins are everywhere in the film. But the universe didn’t become a happy place. Instead, a new threat stepped into the power vacuum and grabbed the failing Empire’s powerbase. All of this not only feels natural, but it gives you the sense of an exciting backstory that permeates the atmosphere of this film. It makes you want to know so much more, and that’s always a winner when your audience feels a strong desire to know more about everything they are seeing.
Abrams was smart about throwing away the deadweight too. There is no emotionally exploitive cameo to remind you of Yoda, there are no Ewoks, there are no flashbacks, there is nothing to remind you of the prequels. In fact, they even undo the stupid story of the stormtroopers being clones, which became the foundation of the prequels. Nor are there any Star Trek babies hitting on each other or any of the other asinine sins Abrams injected into Star Trek.
All of that makes for a great Star Wars film. This is an excellent Star Wars film that feels indistinguishable from the original series and fits the story perfectly. Who could ask for anything more? But there is more... specifically, this is an excellent film.
I wasn’t expecting that. Even if you ignore all the Star Wars aspects, this was great science fiction. The worlds that were created were real and immersive. The characters were interesting, funny, and engaged in personal growth of a type rarely seen in science fiction. The action was fantastic. It was strong and well-choreographed with great effects. There were no 40 minute CGI fight scenes in this film -- fights were short and punchy. Even more interestingly, the story was gripping. It twisted and turned and moved along at a great pace and I never really knew where it would end up. Do you know how rare that is these days?
In short, J.J. Abrams not only created a great addition to Star Wars, he created a great film. This thing can be truly enjoyed by anyone from lifelong fans to people watching their first Star Wars. It is exciting and gripping and super enjoyable. And when it ended, it made you wish you could tell them to start the next one right. fricken. now! Finally, this film felt like it set everything right. I LOVE Star Wars again, which I hadn't for some time.
I cannot recommend this film highly enough.
(Please be very careful of spoilers in the comments.)