I closed out 2015 by stepping out of my comfort zone and taking some real risks.
I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Yeah, yeah, me and a million other people. But it’s a big deal for me to risk a movie. Not only do I donate two hours of my life to watching it, I then spend anywhere from two days to a week afterward processing it. Do you know what it’s like to live with a movie you hated for a week after you saw it? We’re talking dreams, random musings, and chewing over plot points even when you’d rather be doing anything else, including DYING. This was a risk, I tell you.
Fortunately, DJ, Bookgirl, and Gamerboy had seen it already. DJ thought I’d like it. Since he’s the one who has to live with my post-processing, he doesn’t make this decision lightly.
All that to get back to my point, which is that when DJ’s parents gave us an evening away, DJ and I went to see Star Wars.
It was a risk in another way, too. I’m a old-school Star Wars fan. Not really because I loved it myself, but because I had older brothers who lived and breathed it. I actually saw the movies out of order. Jedi, then A New Hope, then Empire. I wouldn’t say this was the best way to understand the entire Star Wars narrative. Particularly a particular kiss in Empire when you’ve already seen Jedi.
DJ’s experience was a little different — his family went to see Jedi, and Leia in the slave bikini did not pass his parents’ 1980s conservative sensibilities. That was the last movie they saw in the theater until 1997, when DJ went to see The Phantom Menace.
I know, I’m sad for him too. He caught up on the true gospel movies afterward. And even saw the other two prequels, but I think some therapy would take care of any lingering effects. (I saw Phantom and was so bored and annoyed that it took me months to process it. I didn’t touch the other two.)
All that to say… well, what I’ve already said. I risked seeing Star Wars last night.
Oh, and I liked it.
I could find things to quibble about, but why? Star Wars has never been great art. The Force Awakens was a fun way to revisit the galaxy. It was slightly darker than the originals; but on the other hand, there’s obviously been a real population boom among women who can do more than wear slave bikinis or weird headdresses, so that’s good.
The main character is, in fact, a young woman. She’s very much a Luke Skywalker type: fresh, idealistic, plucky, and good. She’s also Not Annoying, which all heroines ought to be if they possibly can. (Points to you if you got the Jane Austen reference there.)
Her sidekick is a black former Storm Trooper who injects enough cynical comic relief to her idealistic determination to be enjoyable. Watching the two of them onscreen, learning to work as a team while easily becoming friends, was a refreshing take on the old Star Wars motif of buddies for a cause.
And then the old beloved characters showed up at various times. But what I enjoyed is that it wasn’t overdone. I got to enjoy their company without having it forced upon me that THESE ARE BELOVED CHARACTERS NOW LOVE THEM! I got to revisit old moments — like walking into an alien bar — without feeling like I was being cornered to reminisce about old times with a slightly drunk classmate.
The new droid sidekick was also not overdone, which relieved me. He looked suspiciously cute in the trailers.
The story was so true to the spirit of the originals that Luke is still annoying, even when nobody knows where he is. Even in a movie that begins with the line, “Luke Skywalker has disappeared.”
And yeah, I just really liked the casual presence of females throughout the movie. The old wise ancient character was female. The Storm Trooper captain was female. Several of the Anonymous Bad Guy Computer People were female. And, of course, the protagonist and the general in charge of the rebellion. Again, not overdone. But really nice for a woman who spent her girlhood making swords out of sticks and fighting off bad guys.
As for the plot, well, we stuck to the same familiar galaxy. Same good guys. Same bad guys (the Sith in this one actually was a little sympathetic, a lot pathetic, and fun to watch in a morbidly fascinated kind of way). Same threats. Same solutions. I’m not really complaining. Star Wars hasn’t been fresh and new since… ever. Even the original is just a Western with blasters and telekenesis.
And, right, things blow up. Oh good heavens do things blow up. Buildings blow up. Spaceships blow up. Rocks blow up. Emo Sith Lords blow up (metaphorically speaking). PLANETS BLOW UP. Do you like seeing things blow up? You’ll love the new Star Wars!
Seriously, I did like it. I loved the moments aimed directly at longtime fans. (“Why don’t we take that ship?” “That ship is garbage!”) (The half-buried Star Destroyer.) (The original tracking graphics on the Millennium Falcon.) But I liked that it didn’t depend on the previous films to tell its story.
I’m almost sad that the movie left the story so wide open for sequels. Seems like J.J. Abrams might stop while he’s ahead. On the other hand, after seeing this one, at least I don’t have a bad feeling about this.