Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens

a kate west reflection

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It's been a long time coming, this new Star Wars. On the one hand, we awaited the release with Christmas morning excitement, but on the other, we were wary since we'd been hurt before (VERY hurt, by Episodes I-III, amiright???) so expectations were both abnormally high and abnormally low. Please note, the essential trilogy (IV-VI), has its flaws (besides the Ewoks) which I won't get into here, and which don't really matter to our childhood memories. Sure, the classic John Williams score helped to elevate the story to a different cinematic level than it might otherwise achieved (blah, blah, blah) but relax, this takes nothing away from the lure of the enduring legend.

The main attraction to this franchise, at least for me, is the pure emotion (full disclosure: my true affiliation is with Star Trek, but I still remember falling in love with the original Star Wars and what it did to my fantasy life). Those ideas of the nobility of the Jedi, the loneliness of a space hero, the passion of a rebellion, awakened a new hope in me too, as it were. So I really wanted to like the new movie.

And I did. I already approved of what J.J. Abrams did with the new Star Trek (at least his first movie anyway: read the review here). He kept the essence of the characters, but kept his own modern uber cool spin on it via the alternate universe. So I trusted him to do the same for Star Wars. He didn't do the alternate universe thing, but did stay true to the characters and respected the history enough to make a fairly seamless continuation.

I  always wanted to see a female Jedi and Rey (Daisy Ridley) does a fine job of discovering a latent power in the nick of time. Finn (John Boyega) is a perfectly likable reformed Stormtrooper and Poe (Oscar Issac) is properly dashing. And of course Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill (they ALL aged, by the way) are a welcome sight, along with Chewy and the droids (plus a cute new one to market to the kiddies). The supporting characters are all fine and Adam Driver is a good villain as Kylo Ren. It's all fine and carefully kept within the coloring lines. Everything is fine. Whew.

(well alright, Han Solo is not so fine and while it wasn't a happy scene, it had to happen)

I understand the people who wanted more and I understand the people who embraced this movie as a refreshingly terrific film. In contrast to the disappointing Jar-Jar movies, this is brighter and more truly epic. Strictly cinematically however, it's not as weighty as we might feel the story merits. But it's an awfully good set-up for the sequels. If J.J. is merely laying groundwork, then it's FINE. It works. It's a quick introduction to new characters and a quick segue to future installments. I can't say this is a revolutionary film, given Abrams' extraordinary caution in keeping a certain expected structure. But it's fine and you can all calm down now. Let it just be a movie, for pete's sake.

I'm looking forward to see what adventures happen next. I know this one was a repeat of Star Wars IV but that's OK. History repeats itself and if Rey is a Jedi descendant (Luke's?) it's fitting she has the same story. We're starting over by starting at the beginning (as in 1977). We are pretending I-III didn't happen and we are having a little fun along the way. What more can you ask? Breathe. Everything is fine.

Oh and boy was that final scene breathtaking or what? Emotionally and visually stunning. Thanks again, J.J.!

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