Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and a bunch of people from Episodes IV–VI
Directed By: J.J. Abrams, making up for what he did to Star Trek
Written By: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt, from characters by George Lucas
Lucasfilm/Bad Robot, 2015
PG-13; 135 minutes
5 [Death] stars (out of 5)
First I'm going to go into the requisite personal history I have with this franchise. My best friend was (is) a huge Star Wars fan. She was four and I was eight (Return of the Jedi came out when I was seven). And while I liked Indiana Jones and all things Sherlock Holmes more, I was cool with the Star Wars thing, too. We played it a lot. I always had to be Han, but I was fine with that because I knew Han was really Indy, so it was kind of the same thing.
What I'm saying is, I was very familiar with the Star Wars universe, but I didn't have the attachment that so many fans have. I enjoyed it, and I remember Empire being my favorite of the three films, though Jedi was a close second. I didn't have much feeling for the first one at all.
And when those prequels came out? I went because, again, I have a lot of geeky friends who were very into that stuff. And I was underwhelmed and they were absolutely deflated. So I had fears going into this. Fears that the movie wouldn't be as good as the hype, fears that my friends were going to be sobbing again, and that the little bit of my childhood that is wrapped in Star Wars would be stomped on for a fourth time.
Now I say to doubters: Fear Not.
This is a terrific movie.
It really does bring back all the great things about the original trilogy. Not just Ford and Fisher and so on, but the tone and aesthetic. The fun.
I'm not going to go into details because I don't want to be a spoiler. I will say Adam Driver plays angry and sullen very well. (I was going to write "rebellious teen" but he's, like, in his thirties. Yet his tantrums in this movie were worthy of my six-year-old, and that's saying something.) And while this story feels like it's been told before, well, there's a reason myths and legends have lasted as long as they have, and a reason we go back to certain archetypes again and again. Check in with Joseph Campbell on that.
One might argue the writers went back to this well because it's what worked in IV–VI. And that could be true, too. But if moderate plot repetition is all I can hold against this movie, well . . . Honestly, it's entertaining enough that I'm willing to overlook that. In Rey (Ridley) and Finn (Boyega), we have worthy successors to the Star Wars mantel. And in the cast as a whole, we have solid performances and good chemistry.
In short, they did this well. They did it right.
In fact, they did it so well that I've gone back to that place in my childhood that makes me want to buy toys and t-shirts. Which I'm sure was part of the plan. Those of us old enough to remember the first three movies, the good ones, we're also now old enough to buy ourselves things. And those of us with kids to boot, well, we can buy them things, too. We're being prompted to shower ourselves and our offspring with nostalgic glee, to share that bit of happy memory with those younger than us so they can build happy memories, too.
Well, there are worse things.
Okay, one spoiler. If you haven't seen the movie yet, don't read beyond this line.
During the last scene of the movie, my daughter leaned over and asked, "Momma, who is that?"
And I whispered, "That's Luke Skywalker, baby."
And you know, I'm notoriously difficult to make cry. It's nearly impossible unless there's an animal or small child involved. But when Rey held out that lightsaber? I teared up. I'll admit it.
It's that good a movie.
Or, at least, it's that good a movie for someone bringing a little bit of history into the cinema with them.
But I do think it's also good enough to capture a fresh generation, too. My kids came home and were ready to play Star Wars, each of them shouting out who they were going to be. My youngest son: "I'm BB-8!" My daughter: "I wanna be Chewie!" And my 10-year-old: "I'm Luke Skywalker."
Which leaves me as Han. As usual.