The Disney hype machine has been in full-effect for over a year. Super fans have waited two years since it was announced. On December 18, the world will in all likelihood (but not really) stop rotating so everyone can get in on the EVENT that is a new Star Wars movie, the first live action entry in the franchise since series creator George Lucas wrapped up his ill-fated prequel trilogy in 2005. So, first thing’s first. Is it good?
Well, it’s the best Star Wars movie since Return of the Jedi.
But does it live up to the hype?
How could it? The Force Awakens may be the most publicized film in the history of cinema. This isn’t just another blockbuster. It’s been billed as the blockbuster to end all blockbusters. A movie that will ignite childlike wonder in children being introduced to Star Wars for the first time and those who grew up on the original trilogy. Episode VII is also supposed to serve as a springboard for 50 years worth of future Star Wars films, leaving The Force Awakens to shoulder fans’ mega-sized expectations, lay the groundwork for a half-century worth of movies and tell a singular story. That’s too much to ask of any film, let alone one called Star Wars.
J.J. Abrams takes over as director, bringing Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and characters from the original trilogy — the ones we all know and love, like Han Solo — along for the ride as he introduces a new batch of characters, including Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the very Darth Vader-obsessed Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). There’s technically an actual plot for The Force Awakens, but there’s so many detours taken in the name of world building that there’s no need to get into it.
To Abrams’ credit, The Force Awakens has some really cool things going for it. All of the new characters are interesting, especially Kylo Ren, and seeing how their arcs play out over the trilogy will be a worthwhile endeavor. Bringing in the stars of the original trilogy is a smart way to link the past with the present, but a lot of times they feel out of place, like they outlived their usefulness. On the other hand, Abrams brings a childlike glee — and very little lense flares — to every action scene, especially every sequence involving light sabers. Whereas it seemed like Lucas couldn’t really be bothered to try something new with lightsabers in the prequels, Abrams has a blast utilizing light sabers to their full extent.
It’s unfair to measure The Force Awakens against other films, even other entries in the Star Wars franchise. This isn’t just a “movie.” Disney paid $4 billion to acquire Lucasfilm and the Star Wars brand, and the Mouse House wants to make that back and the some. The Force Awakens is the launching pad for that master plan, and in terms of laying the foundation for sequels, spin-offs and who knows what, the film is a smashing success. So much so, fans should be even more excited for episodes VIII and IX, both of which are free from the shackles of exposition and world building, able to focus solely on all sorts of awesome space action.
The Force Awakens may not be the Star Wars movie those who grew up on the original trilogy have dreamed of, but the path it’s set should, in theory, make for a bright future in the galaxy far, far away.