He may be the father of Star Wars, but the sad truth is, the less Lucas has to do with Star Wars, the better it turns out.
Years ago, suggesting that a singular man could not only direct both a Star Trek and Star Wars film, but revitalize both franchises, was enough to incite a riot of fan rage. And yet, that day is upon us. A true followup to “Return of the Jedi” was the objet petit a that school children of the 80s and 90s fantasized about endlessly. Games were made, comics inked, and books written that helped satiate our dreams, but when Lucas finally announced a new trilogy it was not what we all desired, but a prequel trilogy. A prequel trilogy that seemed to miss the very point of what made Star Wars great. How could the father of what we loved betray us so coldly? The fun and adventure we craved was replaced with a soulless, political, melodrama. Older fans clung to the original trilogy, and the younger generation couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.
J.J. Abrams took on a herculean task when he began “The Force Awakens.” Create a better Star Wars film than Lucas that would not only satisfy older fans, but enchant a new generation. He would also be required to tell the continuing story of our old friends while introducing us to new ones. (and new enemies!) Not only has he accomplished this, but he has created the first movie that feels like Star Wars in over 30 years!
A huge factor in this achievement is the cast that was assembled to play various new characters. Daisy Ridley as “Rey”, a young scavenger on Jakku, a desert planet very similar to Tatooine. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the resistance’s greatest pilot. John Boyega as Finn, a New Order Stormtrooper who has a crisis of faith. And Adam Driver as “Kylo Ren”, a wannabe sith lord with a slew of emotional issues. In addition to these main characters, there are a number of other notable actors whose small roles border on cameos, but leave us craving more. (Bonus points if you can spot Simon Pegg!)
Abrams also reminds us how much FUN Star Wars used to be. While Lucas attempted to lighten dull dialog with sheer annoying goofiness in the prequels, Abrams give us adventure, heart, and clever one-liners that more than once contain an extra wink to the fans. If J.J. can be faulted for anything in this wonderful movie, it’s for repeating mistakes he’s made in previous films. No, not his signature lens-flares. (They’re few, far between, and appropriate.) Instead, we’re referring to his recycling of old material, “Star Trek:Into Darkness” being the perfect example. Without giving anything away, “The Force Awakens” treads a thin line between paying homage to, and ripping off, classic plot points. Where that line falls exactly is sure to be hotly debated for years to come. Abrams is also known for occasional plot contrivances to help move the story along. Again, these aren’t blatant deus ex machinas, but are a bit more than simple coincidences. (Perhaps the Force at work?)
These are minor complaints in a Star Wars film that just slightly falls short of perfection. To some audience members they will matter more than others. But regardless, no matter who you are, once the lights go down, those timeless blue words appear on the star field, and John William’s score blares, you’ll feel that old familiar twinge of excited expectation tugging at you. Especially when you read the first line of the yellow crawl…
Note: There is -so- much more to discuss about this film, but we’ll wait a few weeks before posting anything that could be considered spoilerish.