I’m going to put this out there right now: I’m not one of the seemingly inescapable Star Wars fans who has been counting down to this release since the announcement. I’m not going to pretend to comprehend their relationship with the series. That said, if I were to guess I’d say this is the film they are looking for.
Or maybe not? I got yelled at for not calling BB-8 a girl the other day so what do I know? Well, I do know this: I was 10 or 11 when The Phantom Menace came out so while most viewers at my screening were reminiscing about the glory of the original trilogy and where they were when the first movie came out, I have trouble forgetting that half of the films of the series just weren’t that great. Those were the Star Wars movies I grew up with, and they broke my heart (imagine Natalie Portman being super bummed, crying at Anakin. That is my main memory of Star Wars).
To avoid spoilers, I’m going to keep this review short and sweet by comparing it to another series that made a return this year. As most nerds were talking about the science and origin of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber, I was making sure my dinosaur shirts were clean for Jurassic World. Screw space! I wanted to go back to the park so badly, and I hoped Jurassic World would be a new starting off point for more movies to come, so much so that I didn’t care if they dug up the bones of the first movie and put them back together as faithfully as they possibly could. Actually, that was my preferred outcome. Give me the same basic story and I’ll be a happy camper. But they didn’t stop with the escaped dinosaurs terrorizing children lost in memories or prehistoric times, they added some weird military training for velociraptors and a woman who was proud to run around in heels… It’s fine, but it’s not what I wanted. It’s not quite a return to Jurassic Park.
If you ask me, The Force Awakens does for Star Wars what Jurassic World failed to do for Jurassic Park. It put that skeleton back together and displayed it confidently and proudly, making no excuses or apologies for being what it is, which is an homage to the original trilogy. It’s all so familiar, from the plot points to the locations to the characters. It’s predictable, sure, but it’s comfortable in that it’s what someone would expect to see in a continuation of the original trilogy. Could be that J.J. Abrams was terrified to become the next George Lucas in the eyes of the fans, so he went back to what everyone loves and recreated it.
This isn’t a J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars film, this is the fan’s Star Wars film, and that’s all everyone ever wanted.