By Alex Campbell
I did what I told myself I would not do: I let all the hype of the movie get to me.
When I went to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on its release day, my expectations had shot up faster than the Millennium Falcon can fly the Kessel Run. That, combined with the fact that some kid shouted a fake spoiler to everyone in the bathroom just before the movie started, made for a less-than-optimal viewing experience. Because of that, I wasn’t able to feel the wonder of Star Wars that I had been so eager to experience until late in the movie.
So my immediate reaction to the movie was overwhelmingly negative. I went into the theater with my mind fixed on what type of movie I wanted it to be: just like the original Star Wars.
But in the hours following the movie I came to realize that this was not possible and that Episode VII was exactly the movie it needed to be.
As the movie ended, I felt like I had watched a good action movie, but not a Star Wars movie. For much of the film it felt like director J.J. Abrams’ distinct filmmaking style was too present in the film. Like his previous Star Trek movies, The Force Awakens was very fast-paced and hectic, as opposed to the previous six Star Wars movies, which were more slow-paced and focused.
But the more I thought about this, the more I realized that this was the best choice for the movie. The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and that is a lot to catch the audience up on. The fast-paced nature of the film allows much more backstory to be revealed to the viewers and therefore allows the audience to feel like not as much time went has gone by. Sure, it might have had a more distinct Star Wars feel had the style been more like the originals, but there would have been many more unanswered questions than there already are. Hopefully more questions will be answered in Episode VIII.
As I watched the movie, I also felt like there were not enough connections with the original saga. Don’t get me wrong, bringing back the original cast was nostalgic, but there were other things that seemed different. Namely the Force, which was treated more like a weapon than the mystical tool it was made out to be in the originals. The galaxy also seemed different, with none of the old planets making appearances.
I went into the movie thinking of it as part of its own trilogy rather than a direct continuation of the saga. Because of this, I felt like the film was missing a lot of the essential information that defined the central aspects of the Star Wars universe. But I realized that this movie was marketed toward people who had already seen the original movies, and to recap all the major points would simply be redundant. It would have also taken time away from the explanation of the 30-year gap between movies.
As opposed to the more general aspects of the movie, the new characters turned out to be the strongest parts of the film. The film begins by introducing Poe Dameron, a resistance pilot who is on a mission to recover a map leading to the self-exiled Luke Skywalker.
Instantly I was drawn to this character. He is caring, confident and humorous, which is introduced right away as he is able to crack a joke even when he is at the mercy of the menacing Kylo Ren. But above all, he is the best damn fighter pilot in the galaxy. Seeing him blast over the ruins of Maz Kanata’s ruined castle destroying Tie Fighters with ease, brought back that amazed feeling of seeing Star Wars for the first time.
After being taken captive by the First Order, Poe is quickly rescued by defector Stormtrooper FN-2187, who he quickly dubs Finn. Right off the bat, you see that Finn is a complex character. Disturbed by the their brutal destruction of an innocent town, Finn hopes to desert the First Order with Poe as his pilot. Though he only wanted to escape to the far reaches of the galaxy, he was thrust into a central role in the battle between the First Order and the Resistance. John Boyega, who portrays Finn, was possibly the most excited to be a part of the next generation of Star Wars heroes, and his enthusiasm for the role truly showed on screen. It will be interesting to see how his story arc progresses through the next two movies.
Then there is Rey. Possibly one of the strongest of the new characters to join the saga, she definitely has the most interesting storyline. Abandoned by her parents on the desert planet of Jakku, she grew up scavenging the remnants of destroyed Star Destroyers in order to sustain herself. She stumbles upon BB-8 and like Finn she is thrown into the adventure of a lifetime. Daisy Ridley falls into this role like she has been doing it her whole life, and is able to perfectly execute both the comedic and the serious scenes of the film.
And now, BB-8. I did not know what to expect of BB-8 goinginto the movie. Described as the next generation of R2-D2, this droid looked more like a soccer ball with a head. But BB-8 captured my heart in a way I never thought a droid could. In fact, BB-8 was pretty much another main character in the movie. Despite his odd shape, his many functions rivaled those of R2, with cables which allow him to stabilize itself, and a miniature flamethrower, which doubles as a thumbs-up.
The original cast slide seamlessly back into their roles, as if they never left. When Han Solo (Harrison Ford), as cocky as ever, ran on to the screen, there was a feeling that Star Wars was back. The nostalgia that came along with Chewie and his banter only made it even sweeter. Carrie Fisher was back and independent as always as General Leia Organa. While receiving only a little screen time, it was nice to see C-3PO and R2-D2 back on the big screen.
Of course, you can’t forget the villains.
Kylo Ren, for me, took the word “villain” to an entirely new level. Played by Adam Driver, he showed both extreme self-control at times, but also bordered on insanity at other moments, lashing out with his lightsaber at the slightest provocation. When he removed his mask, he seemed almost disappointingly ordinary (as opposed to Darth Vader's battle-scarred face) but looks can be deceiving. His simple features hid the emotional battle between the light and dark sides of the Force that are raging inside of him. As his character develops in the next two films, I’m sure he will take his place next to Darth Vader as a Star Wars great.
Ren’s mysterious master was also introduced in the film, but this was one of the aspects that I wasn’t so excited about. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) received little air time in the movie, but his entire appearance was already revealed, which took away much of the mystery surrounding him. The Force Awakens should have taken one more page from the original films and shrouded him in mystery, as was the case with the Emperor in several of the earlier films, and cultivated fans’ interest leading up to a big reveal in a later film. However, his scarred appearance does leave some mystery about the character, definitely keeping some interest.
Overall, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is an excellent movie, and despite the occasional plot hole or scene where you tell yourself “just don't question it and enjoy it,” I’m sure that when I see it a second time it will only get better. While it may not quite be the movie that everyone is making it out to be, it is a fine start to the revitalization of the Star Wars saga.