I was born the year after Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi was released in theaters. I grew up in a house that watched “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and had a bunch of Star Wars toys in the basement (we didn’t discriminate). We still have those toys, by the way. Like many, I was excited when the prequels were announced. Then, I watched them.
I’m not saying that they ruined my childhood or somehow diminished my love of the old entries into the franchise, but they did make me wary of anything new being added. I’m not going to sit here and bash them because that’s been done enough. Besides, there’s a generation of kids who grew up loving the prequels. Now, thanks to Disney and J.J. Abrams, we all have a new Star Wars movie we can bond over in the form of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Many years have passed since the Rebel Alliance struck a decisive, seemingly final, blow to the Empire in the form of blowing up their second Death Star. In the absence of the Empire, the First Order has risen to bring order to a chaotic galaxy far, far away. Meanwhile, the Rebel Alliance has been rebranded into the Resistance and the first main character we meet is their most talented and dashing pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who is accompanied by the best robot ever: BB-8.
Yes, I will fight anyone about my love for BB-8.
Poe is searching for runaway Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who has fled the scene when they could really use a Jedi. Of course, he’s found by First Order stormtroopers and has to stash the map in BB-8 lest it fall into the wrong hands. He sends BB-8 and the plot rolling into motion.
There’s a desert planet, reluctant heroes, and a huge planet-killing base that needs to be destroyed. Honestly, you’d think people would crack open a history book or whatever the in-universe equivalent is. Maybe they’d learn that planet-killing bases have this annoying tendency to be blown up by plucky heroes.
While the plot feels very familiar to those who have grown up with this far, far away galaxy, it’s not an entire retread of things we’ve seen before as some would have you believe. It has enough familiar things blended in with new plot elements to keep it feeling fresh and not wholly recycled. I believe someone put it best in saying that it’s ridiculous to hate on a movie that’s too much like a movie you love.
It’s not a perfect movie. It’s not the best Star Wars movie. It is, however, a good movie and a great deal of fun to watch. I’ve seen it twice so far and found myself smiling almost the entire time during both viewing. I’m willing to bet that this trend will continue when I feel up to seeing it again in theaters. It’s definitely something that’s fantastic on the big screen. While I’m sure it’s marvelous in regular 2-D, I have to say that seeing it in 3-D was awesome. It made it feel more expansive without being gimicky.
Folks, the main trio in this movie and the movies to come are a white woman, a black man, and a hispanic man. The hero of this movie is Rey (Daisy Ridley), the female scavenger from Jakku who just wants her family to come back to her. I can’t tell you how much this movie would have meant to me if I’d seen it as a little girl. I can only tell you that it means the world to me now.
Heck, even one of the fantastic villains in this movie is a woman. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) may not have been in the film for very long, but she was so memorable. You could practically hear Phasma’s eyes rolling under her chrome helmet.
It’s still going to take time for Hollywood to get the message that you don’t need white actors with big names to sell movies, but I think they’re going to sit up and notice just how much money Star Wars: The Force Awakens is making with its diverse cast of relative unknowns. I say relative unknowns because, believe it or not, Oscar Isaac has been in a whole bunch of things and John Boyega, who plays the conflicted ex-Stormtrooper Finn, was certainly noticed by the sci-fi crowd in Attack the Block.
On top of all of that, there has been a lot of talk about whether or not Oscar Isaac’s character, Poe, is going to be canonically queer. I can tell you that there’s already a lot of fanfiction and fan art to that effect. Me? I’m hoping for Finn, Rey, and Poe to become an adorable poly trio. That’s just me, though. Your preferences and mileage may vary.
Honestly, the best thing that Star Wars: The Force Awakens did was give me hope. I now have hope for a great future in this galaxy far, far away. For all of Disney’s sins, I can’t hate them for that.