It was inevitable I was going to review this movie. Yes, it’s been 7 months since it came out, so I’m kinda late to the party, but hey, at the same time, I don’t exactly have to worry about “spoiling” it. I mean, seriously, what’s the worse that could happen? Getting frozen in carbonite and/or being thrown into a Rancor pit? [Awkward pause] I just gave some suggestions, didn’t I?
First off, I’m just gonna go right ahead and say that this is the best movie of 2015, in my opinion. While I have one more 2015 movie to review and my top best and worst movie lists of 2015 left to do, I’m just making it official that for me, this movie is my favorite film of 2015 and the best movie of 2015. Plus I saw this movie FIVE TIMES in theaters, so that should be some indication lol. I’ve loved Star Wars since I was little, watched all the movies (except The Clone Wars 2008 film, though I have the DVD) and a bunch of the TV shows (haven’t watched The Clone Wars in its entirety, and I have the DVDs for all seasons as well) played a lot of the games, and read a lot of the books and comics (Outbound Flight was my favorite), even joked about my Star Wars book collection as my “little Star Wars library”. Being a fan, I wanted to see a sequel trilogy happen for a LONG time, despite the obstacles leading to it.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I’m going to recount a bit of this movie’s history and my views on it. When it was first announced back in 2012 that Disney bought out Lucasfilm and Star Wars for a shit ton of money from George Lucas, and that there was gonna be Star Wars films made by them (as well as the obvious eventuality that they’d be making Indiana Jones films too), I was kinda skeptical and cynical. I mean, usually when it came to Disney buying out stuff and doing their own spin on it, sometimes they’d do good, sometimes not. Like others I knew, I was afraid that Star Wars would fall under the latter category. Not only was it also announced that the sequel trilogy wouldn’t follow Expanded Universe material (though I wasn’t exactly expecting it to, considering a lot of EU stuff continues more than a hundred years past the original trilogy, so the fact that this movie took place 30 years after the original trilogy and did its own story instead was a fair compromise), but that the EU was rendered “non-canon” by Disney, though lately it’s been changed to “iffy canon” with certain EU characters and stories like Thrawn and others popping up here and there, so nice to know Disney can make up their minds on that…NOT!!! All kidding aside though, I got excited when it was confirmed that original trilogy actors Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, and others would be returning to reprise their roles of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, Chewbacca, C-3PO (but no Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian? wtf?), with the addition of new characters played by “relatively unknown” actors, similar to the casting methods done when the original films were made. John Williams was brought back to do the music, because who else could do it? I even got excited, though a little skeptical, when J.J. Abrams was announced as the director and co-writer, who helped bring Star Trek back from decline and to a wider audience. Michael Arndt (writer of Oscar-winning screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine) and Lawrence Kasdan (co-writer of Episodes V-VI) were also writers of the film. My excitement grew even more when I saw the first trailer, then the next, and then some more stuff promoting the movie, while also ignoring all the bullshit racism and whatever else internet trolls came up with to stir up controversy, until finally I bought tickets for me and my friend (as part of his birthday/Xmas gift; his birthday is in December, a few days away from Xmas) to see it the day it first premiered in theaters. From that screening and four more later, I fell in love with Star Wars all over again, or maybe even more so than I already was.
I’m not gonna lie, after seeing it a bunch of times, I do think the movie is almost note-for-note EXACTLY like A New Hope, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie. In fact, it’s a big part of what made it such a massive success. I’m not gonna do a check-list cause there’d be WAY too many things to check off on with what this movie does to pay homage/tribute to and/or emulate the original, so I guess a short summary, that being about ragtag Rebels fighting against an evil Empire and their, to paraphrase Mayor West as Tarkin from Blue Harvest, the “planetary system blower upper gun”, should do. Star Wars almost lost touch with people after a while, probably due to the prequels presenting a different outlook on the franchise (which was kind of the idea with those movies, though that doesn’t make them any better, and yeah I did like parts of em), filled with awkward writing/direction, certain characters that you’d wish had died the moment they appeared (looking at YOU, Jar Jar Binks, and I wish this movie could’ve shown his death at least), and some other things that were really off-putting. Sure, the franchise was still going with TV shows and other merchandise, but it needed a revival, a back-to-basics approach on what made it so great in the first place, and that was a swash-buckling adventure filled with action, drama, great characters, exotic locations, war, epic space opera awesomeness, and whatever else that made Star Wars what it was for a lot of people. This movie pulled that off with flying colors and so much more. What was really interesting about this movie though was that it almost seemed self-aware at times on how it was reimagining the original film, in a 21st century kind of way, if that makes any sense. And not only is this movie a lot like the original, it even takes ideas, concepts, and some story from EU material set after Episode VI, particularly the character of Kylo Ren/Ben Solo and his obvious similarities to Jacen Solo/Darth Caedus, but more on that later.
And how can one talk about Star Wars without talking about the characters? I LOVED the characters in this movie, both the returning ones and the new ones. Harrison Ford is just as gruff and cool as ever returning as Han Solo, only aged and more world-weary, but still able to kick ass and take names. Carrie Fisher is just, well, kinda there as Leia, but it can be seen from first glance that she’s been through a lot and while she’s a bit salty at times, she can be a nice and understanding person, always seeing the best in people. And Chewbacca (played by Peter Mayhew) is still probably one of the best “space bros” ever. As for the new characters? They fit into the mold of the narrative very well, as well as demonstrating how they can carry on as the new generation for this franchise and its universe, while also being shepherded by the previous generation at times. Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is easily my favorite character, as well as for a lot of others, and for good reason (oh the trials and tribulations I had to go through just to get her action figure lol). She’s badass, kicks ass, capable, strong, independent, smart, a survivor, loyal, fierce, and just overall AWESOME. I was even surprised at how the movie carried out her being the main hero, misleading me and others into thinking it was Finn (played by John Boyega), not that Finn wasn’t awesome to begin with. Finn is almost like the film’s way of the audience either being introduced or reintroduced to Star Wars. A former stormtrooper, Finn decides to leave the First Order (the newly reformed Galactic Empire) after witnessing the horrors of their actions on his first combat mission (though really how did he not know he was working for bad guys in the first place? they’re the friggin EMPIRE that was founded by SITH LORDS who kill people mercilessly through STORMTROOPERS and DEATH STARS!), which starts his adventure throughout the movie and the new friends he encounters, while also stepping up to a bigger calling, initially unsure how to handle it and almost afraid, but when it comes to the lives of his friends, he will do whatever it takes to save the day, even fight off stormtroopers and a dark side user with a lightsaber despite having no Force powers and little lightsaber combat experience, though he’s still badass. And then there’s Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo (played by Adam Driver), the son of Han and Leia and former apprentice of Luke, who fell to the dark side and one of the leaders of the First Order, who is hunting down Finn, Rey, Han, Chewie, and the adorable and cool droid BB-8, to acquire the map that leads to the location of Luke Skywalker. While Kylo Ren is Darth Vader’s grandkid, he isn’t Vader exactly. He is a driven individual that is determined to get what he wants, yet at the same time is unsure of his actions and what they could mean for him. He wants to emulate his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, sadly it is only the worst parts (even keeping his mask; how the heck did he get that anyway?), and it’d be a reckoning for him when he realizes how that paid off for him and how he truly redeemed himself, leading to speculation whether Ren himself is capable of that, especially after killing his father Han. It is a neat contrast how despite having dark side powers, he still manages to look relatively okay, given the history of past individuals with dark side powers and the physical effects it had on them. All of this is very similar to Jacen Solo from EU, but I think a difference between them is that Jacen was aware and understood what his grandfather went through and did to become a Sith Lord, whereas Ren here just straight up idolizes him and acts at times he’s divided on what to do but is still a force to be reckoned with. The way that all these characters’ stories converged, especially in the final battle being both a little clunky yet still awesome, shows how much they’ve grown through their experiences and what they’re now capable of doing, and what lies in store for them in the future. It was both shocking and yet not surprising at the same time how Han Solo got killed by Kylo Ren and the moments that led up to it.
The other characters seem a bit more one-note, whether they’re played by fresh faces on the rise or veteran actors. Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac) is sort of like a mix between Wedge Antilles and Han Solo, an ace pilot and capable commander who is as much of a suave and dashing rogue as you could expect, and that’s kinda it. General Hux (played by Domhnall Gleeson) is basically Grand Moff Tarkin only more shouty and obvious about his elitism. Lor San Tekka (played by Max von Sydow) is just some old guy who starts off the movie by giving Poe the map to Luke and then just dies, leaving any more story around him in this movie to the dust or for expanded material to tell, if that ever happens. Captain Phasma (played by Gwendoline Christie) is a character that got heavily featured in merchandise (probably to copy off the similar marketing and appeal with Boba Fett), yet barely does much more than window dressing and spouting out a few lines here or there. Maz Kanata (played by Lupita Nyong’o) is the wise and kinda crabby bar owner who knows a lot about the Force, Jedi, Sith, and other things, but only tells some of what she knows only to save the rest “for another time”, as she puts it (and she’s also dating Chewie, apparently; don’t want to know how that works). And then there’s Supreme Leader Snoke (played by Andy Serkis), who’s some ambiguous evil leader guy who apparently has dark side powers, seen mostly as a hologram, and is just really the movie’s way of saying “yeah we got Andy Serkis doing a glorified motion capture role so deal with it”. They are pretty good characters here and do add to the story, it’s just they feel a little lacking due to whatever amount of screen time is spared for em or hardly much revealed about em. Also, as irritating it is that Luke Skywalker only showed up near the very end and with no lines, at least he was in this movie, just wished he did SOMETHING other than stand there all intense.
So with all that said, what is it that makes this movie so good, in my opinion? Well, it’s not that it was the best-directed, best-written, best-acted, or smartest movie, though it is really good in those aspects. I like to think this movie is similar to how Nostalgia Critic felt about how “Osama bin Laden Has Farty Pants” was the best South Park episode: this movie came at a time when a lot of people (myself included), maybe America and maybe even the world, NEEDED Star Wars. The political landscape was a clusterfuck, racial tensions were high, mass shootings were happening, everything and everyone just seemed to be on edge, Donald Trump and ISIS were making things worse, and then this movie came out, providing escape but also a renewed sense of positivity. I talked about in my review of The Martian how it showcased the best of humanity amidst troubled times by being united for a common cause in helping their fellow man. Here, for this movie, and the entire Star Wars franchise as a whole, there is an overall sense of hope. No matter the darkest of times we face, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever new evil may arise, there is always “a new hope” to handle it. Every Star Wars movie, both the originals and even the prequels, explored this concept in some way, shape, or form, and this one is no different. Sure, this movie relied on nostalgia, retreading some stuff that came before, and did some things in an old-fashioned way, but I think as Phil Coulson put it: “the world could use a little old-fashioned” (no not that kind of old-fashioned, get your mind out of the gutter lol). It showed that while the franchise has had its fair share of rough times, it can still turn out okay when it needs to. I left this movie each time I saw it with a new sense of positivity and hope (especially the time I saw it after watching the shitty Point Break remake), knowing that while things may seem bad, there is also something, a “force”, if you will, that can “awaken” something good, all in a tale set during a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away…
May the Force be with us all 🙂