Why did you originally fall in love with Star Wars?
For me, watching the original trilogy for the first time a quarter of a century after Star Wars changed cinema forever in 1977, the films appealed to me for so many reasons. There was mystery, adventure, and a score that couldn’t get out of your head but was welcomed because it made your own life feel like an epic adventure. There were the planets, the characters, the plot twists, the light sabers, the one-liners, and the bounty hunters. There was Darth Vader – the most evil villain to ever enter our imaginations. There was Luke Skywalker, Yoda, R2-D2, C-3PO, Chewbacca, and Leia. And there was Han Solo. No one was cooler than Han Solo. Heck… most nerds like me just wanted to be like Luke because we knew we could never be as cool as Han.
That’s why my first AIM screenname was LukeSky333.
But I would never consider myself a Star Wars nerd. I’ve never been to a Comic Con. I don’t have all the planets memorized. But something deeper about Star Wars connected with me just like it connected with all of us.
The reason is because the films were about an epic story on an individual level – about the overwhelming nature of being a part of a bigger story that you don’t understand, finding your place in a world at war while longing for love. It’s about broken families and wanting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. It’s about good versus evil and the true path to not only evil, but also redemption.
My friend Nathan Hitchens writes about this core message of Star Wars in his essay, “How Does Good Triumph Over Evil?”, concluding: “STAR WARS SUGGESTS A WAY OUT OF THE ABSOLUTIZED WAR OF GOOD AND EVIL PERSONIFIED: A COMPASSION FOR THE OTHER SIDE THAT TRANSCENDS WHAT WAS THE CONFLICT, BREAKING THE HOLD OF EVIL ON A LOST SOUL.”
The most powerful part of the new film is how this conceptualization of good, evil, and redemption come into play, and how it sets up numerous questions about our old friends from the original trilogy and the new friends we meet here. To what extent are evil actions masking insecurity, fear, and pain? (Maybe Yoda was right all along.) What makes someone good? Is it ever too late for someone to be redeemed? The end of Return of the Jedi and Darth Vader’s life would imply not. But the question is reopened on a whole new level in this latest chapter.
But overall, what makes Star Wars: The Force Awakens such a wonderful viewing experience is how delightful it is. In an interview with WIRED, J.J. Abrams said the main goal for this film as he discussed it with Lawrence Kasdan (who returned to helm this script after giving us the greatest Star Wars film ever, The Empire Strikes Back) was to make it delightful:
“So I tried to not forget the mistakes I’d made, but I also tried to focus on things that I find inspiring about cinema. I asked questions like “How do we make this movie delightful?” That was really the only requirement Larry and I imposed on each other: The movie needed to be delightful. It was not about explaining everything away, not about introducing a certain number of toys for a corporation, not about trying to appease anyone. This has only ever been about what gets us excited.”
Many who love this movie and criticize it focus on the same thing – how much this film is a return to the original film in 1977. But to criticize this factor seems to miss the entire point of the films and the philosophy embedded within the mythology altogether – history repeats itself, new generations have to deal with the aftermath of the successes and failures of past generations, older people have to reconcile and try to redeem what has gone wrong before them while realizing the extent to which it is no longer their fight, and so much more. This was all right there in the original film. And, most importantly, there was mystery and so many unknowns. We knew that young people finding their place in the world while trying to find answers about their families’ pasts were important, but we didn’t know the rest of the pieces of those puzzles. We didn’t know about midichlorians and trade embargoes. But we knew we wanted to know more about Han Solo’s past, where Luke came from, who Darth Vader was, and so much more.
The power of the film was not just in its epic scope; the power came from joining a small ragamuffin group of rebels trying to figure it out for themselves as the epic battle for good and evil happened around them.
Abrams says it best:
“We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. When Star Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible. The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars, you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.”
And that’s what we have again. We have everything that made us fall in love with Star Wars originally – the mystery, the humor, the romance, the creatures, the light sabers, The Force, youthful joy and excitement, and deathly darkness. It’s all lived out against breathtaking landscapes and within individual minds, hearts, and souls.
So enjoy it. Dwell on it. Let your mind stay in that universe as you fall asleep humming the all-time great score of John Williams.
In an interview in L.A. Times, Abrams said what would make this film feel like a success to him.
“In this age where we all have this thing in our pockets that we feel so connected through but is also isolating, the thing that will be, for me, the most exciting and would make this feel like it was a successful enterprise would be if people in those theaters, hundreds at a time, are looking up at one thing together and getting to laugh together and scream and cry and feel exhilaration together.
If that can happen and there can be a communal experience, I will feel like we did our job.”
Well, you did your job. Thank you J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and John Williams for taking us back to the world we all fell in love with. And thank you Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher for letting us visit our old friends. Thank you Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac, and Adam Driver for infusing a youthful joy and excitement and uncertainty, letting us see this universe with fresh eyes again.
This is the Star Wars film we’ve been looking for.
Wow. Just wow. When J.J. Abrams was announced to direct the new Star Wars film over two years ago, I think expectations were noticeably high. How could they not be? He had already resurrected and perfected one space franchise in Star Trek. He seemed to be the ideal fit for the monumental job of bringing back Hollywood’s most beloved franchise.
Even with those sky-high hopes, I don’t think any of us thought we’d get as good of a film as “The Force Awakens” is. It brings back all the emotions “New Hope” did nearly 40 years ago; the timeless mythology of good vs. evil and darkness vs. the light is more prominent than ever.
Most fascinating in Episode 7 is just how fresh everything feels. You would expect the principles of past Star Wars films to be a bit of a bore by this point, but Abrams and team integrate it so well into a relaunch, the viewer gets brought back into the world George Lucas created with such ease.
Let’s avoid spoilers. There are plenty of moments that will have you dropping your jaw, and those that trigger simultaneous cheers from the crowd. Without giving too much away, I can say the finale is perhaps the best in franchise history. You get it all: the epic air fight, the light saber battle for the ages, the profound interaction of one generation of Stars Wars to another. It’s all great stuff.
Maybe I’m gushing too much. Or perhaps I’m letting too much slide for a film that was so heavily anticipated. It’s just so nice to see a blockbuster not just live up to the hype – as big as it is – but create a new story arc for the Star Wars franchise I’m already crazy to see.
Since “Star Wars” launch in the late 70s, Hollywood has seen superheroes, wizards and every type of robot imaginable that have blown up both screens and box office records. Abrams reminds with “Force Awakens” that “Star Wars” is still the fairest of them all, though. Cliché as it may sound, the force is strong with this one.