Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Spoiler-Free: The Force Awakens

Posted by Rampant Coyote on December 22, 2015

ChewieWereHomeI was gonna come up with a catchy title here, but… screw it. Without giving away anything about the new Star Wars movie (at least nothing that wasn’t already revealed in the trailers and commercials), here’s my opinion (totally free and worth every penny):

I’ve seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens twice now.  If you are trying to keep yourself spoiler-free, it’s going to get harder and harder every day. If you are at all interested, see it sooner rather than later. The upshot is: I liked it a lot. It’s silly for me to point out that it has flaws… like, DUH. But I think it’s a worthy entry into the series, and it’s the best new Star Wars movie I’ve seen in 30 years… possibly since The Empire Strikes Back.

Okay, well, there are a million opinions out there.  I thought I’d talk about mine, but without revealing spoilerish details about this movie.

When I saw the trailers, I was afraid to have hope. I remembered how wonderful the trailers for The Phantom Menace were, and how excited I was to see the long-awaited prequels. I was disappointed. We were all heartbroken. Unlike my wife, I do not hate the prequels… but they were made by someone who clearly didn’t understand why he had been successful with the original movies. They didn’t ruin the original trilogy for me (not in the way the Matrix sequels really detracted from the original).

Considering George Lucas’s lame explanation over his retcon of the “Han shot first” (and last) scene in the original movie, it’s clear he’s been pretty far out-of-step with his audience and fans for a while. It was time for a generation of film makers who were inspired by the original to see what they could do with it. But that’s hardly a guarantee of success.

Not only that, but the people who loved the original trilogy back in the late 70s and early 80s no longer exist. We changed. We grew up. I can go back and watch Star Wars (later dubbed “A New Hope“) and The Empire Strikes Back and maybe get a little bit in touch with the kid who originally saw the series wide-eyed and mind-blown in the theaters… a kid who wanted to grow up to become Luke Skywalker. The kid who listened to the soundtrack over and over again as he grew up. But I’m still a jaded grown-up who winces a little bit at the dialog, and willfully turns a blind eye towards the sometimes glaring faults. I love the movies, and celebrate the mastery that made them awesome, and leave it at that.

But if you were to somehow give me selective amnesia so that I completely forgot these films and showed them to me again, with my current age and experience, I’m not sure they’d rate as highly. Maybe The Empire Strikes Back wouldn’t remain my favorite SF movie of all time, and I’d say something like, “Well, it was good, but wasn’t in the same league as Serenity.”

All that is a way of saying that the original trilogy gains some significant benefits by being early and occupying the status of “classic.” In some ways, they are unassailable that way. It’s almost impossible for anything to top them. So a sequel has to fill some shoes that are bigger than they really should be.

All that being said… I think the new sequel pulls it off. It’s the Star Wars movie I’ve been waiting for since I was a kid.

Some people are complaining about how the new movie echoes the story of A New Hope. To me, this  seems deliberate, and not a flaw. They wanted it to rhyme, and it does. It works. It’s the differences that are really exciting and intriguing. I’m interested in these new characters and seeing how they develop, as well as their relationships with the original characters. I want to know more about them and see what they do next. Contrast this with the prequels, where I seriously couldn’t give a crap about Anakin’s slide to the dark side…. the whole POINT of that trilogy. The characters felt like action figures from a toy line. They looked cool and posed.

From a purely technical standpoint – performances, story, special effects, etc. – this may be the best-made film of all seven. But it wasn’t the technical qualities that won audiences over originally.

Anyway, I feel good about the new stewardship over the movies. This new one felt like Star Wars to me. In a small way, I felt like a kid again, watching the individual films of what would eventually be the “original trilogy” for the first time. To me, that’s a big deal!

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