So this isn’t really a review – more of a reaction to the movie. It would be very hard for someone like me to review a Star Wars movie. Just too close and too invested in the SW mythos and all that entails, which is why my reactions and viewing experience are what they are.
Which is to say… Saddened and a bit neurotic. And by the way, spoiler alert – you probably don’t want to read this if you haven’t yet seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
We took it in on opening night – a good sold-out crowd, not many kids. Since we were seated an hour before the movie, the kids and I ate plenty of popcorn and drank enough soda that the boy and I had to visit the restroom prior to the start of the film. And so I missed ‘A Long time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away’… So I was sad right off the bat, then nervous. Nervous because I so wanted it to be good. Nervous because I wanted to like the new kid characters. Nervous because I didn’t want the old veterans to trip up horribly.
In retrospect, I should have watched one of Abrams’ Star Trek movies a few days prior, because that would have put me in a more mellow state of mind. I didn’t need to worry, because as with Kirk, Spock, and company, the Lucasfilm crew were in very good, steady hands. Unfortunately, by the time I started to relax a little and enjoy the show, my brain was processing the various plot elements and developments and I started to worry about Han and get sad again.
Like most veteran SW fans, as soon as I learned that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, I assumed that one if not both of them would soon be goners. Then my brain processed just how little Harrison Ford needs the money and hassle involved with a long-term contract, and by the time Han walked out on that bridge, I was borderline depressed.
It didn’t help to learn that Han and Leia never really made it work – though as my brother-and-law and I later discussed, what in their characters as seen in Episodes IV-VI made us think that those two could settle in and live happily as good parents? A smuggler and a princess/revolutionary… Not a recipe for raising well-adjusted force-responsible kids. What really happened between them? Since it’s a more effective plot device to only hint at this and let the audience draw their own conclusions, that’s exactly what Abrams has done.
And, of course, I was thinking about Luke. The entire plot of these new films doesn’t work at all if Luke had been successful with the new Jedi Academy. But he wasn’t There was some kind of massive failure involving padawans turning on each other, with death and betrayal, and somebody kidnapping little Rey and depositing her (alone) on Jakku. A pretty awful turn for the heroic Jedi who defeated Darth Vader and the Emperor at Endor. Actually, this bothered me quite a lot. It also bothered me that we don’t get to see how and if Han blamed Luke for this, and whether or not there will be any reconciliation between the two. Luke is the Jedi in ‘Return of the Jedi’. He’s the farm kid who believed in himself and made good – with the help of his friends. To think of Luke as a failure just depressed me.
Then I started wondering if Abrams would trust enough in Mark Hamil the actor to make Luke a central part of the next two movies, or would he just be used as a plot device to train Rey and serve as Sith-fodder for Kylo Ren. Will Luke be able to redeem himself again? Will we see him as a Jedi Master or a bitter failure? But most of this speculation came later… In the theater I was saddened enough by Han’s death that when Luke finally did show up at the end, looking haggard and beaten down, it was almost too much.
So this is my problem… And I’ve talked with others from my demographic, for whom the original movies were such an important childhood cornerstone – and we’re just too invested in Star Wars and the characters. We’ll all say we enjoyed the movie, and it was great, and we loved seeing Chewie and the Falcon again. But how many of us will admit that we were too nervous and angst-ridden to enjoy ‘The Force Awakens’? I tried to explain this to my uncle, and he just shook his head and let me know I take this stuff way too seriously. And he’s right, of course.
There were many aspects of the movie I likely enjoyed or could enjoy if I could get over myself. So I’ve resolved to just go see it again and try to relax. Probably in the next week or so. Maybe then I’ll be able to get some perspective and figure out where I stand on the many questions of TFA, the new characters, and where JJ is taking us.