By Dominque Keith-Maher
Duun, duun, dun dun dun duuun, duuun, dun dun dun, duuun, duun, dun dun dun duuuuun. Duun, duun, dun dun dun duuun, dun, dun dun dun, duun dun, dun dun dun dun.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a hit even before it crashed against the big screen. Grossing over 100 million dollars in pre-sale tickets, the students at the school I worked at planned on dedicating a project to witnessing the madness of the Star Wars fandom. Bigger than Twilight, The Hunger Games, and dare I say it, Harry Potter, Star Wars fans, young and old, have piled into theaters in droves to witness and continue the legacy of the great sci-fi opera.
Sadly, I was not one of those fans, but was merely a writer, attempting to find the next movie to review. So why not Star Wars, right? Well the problem, as you, Star Wars fan, have already figured out, is that I’m not going to understand all of the references or the large impact of particular scenes, nor will I gasp at the right moments (hence, when Hans Solo first appears). No, I watched this film as though it were any other film. So please, Star Wars fans, do not be offended at what I will say in terms of the film because I have no point of reference. With that, let us began.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place, roughly 30 years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, and The First Order has risen to take its place. Darth Vader has been destroyed (because his mask sits on a stool that Darth Vader Jr. prays to) and Luke Skywalker has disappeared. Resistance pilot, Poe and his droid, BB-8 are sent by Princess/General Leia to find Luke, where he manages to stumble along the way, encountering Finn, a defector of The First Order, who is thrown into the chaos of recovering Luke, when all he wants to do is flee a life of massacres and fascism. Along the way, Finn encounters the bad ass scavenger, Rey, and together, they try to return the droid to The Resistance and find Luke Skywalker.
What can I say about this film? Like many big screen films, with a lot of action and, splish splashes and “wouza” moments, this movie was bound to contain some cliches. At moments, particularly the end, I found myself hunched over in my seat crying with hysteria. Sometimes I asked myself, “was it really necessary to have a 15 second close-up of the, ‘This is my surprised look’ facial expression? But apparently it was.
Thank God it wasn’t accompanied by the classic, “zoom in fast” camera motion. But I’m sure the cameraman had to have an internal battle to make sure that didn’t happen. What was included was the classic, “we are evil super villains who resemble Hitler’s 1937 German SS rally” moment, the epic ending and camera pan sequence, and the even more classic, “the dead main character who just manages to come back to life” scene.
But other than that, it’s Star Wars. The little I know about Star Wars amounts to the running trope of the hero; the fantastic scenery and setting; and the excellent makeup and costumes. Yes, all of this was there. But I must say, the most exciting part of the film was the hero. According to my local Star Wars expert-- my father-- this was the first Star Wars film where the hero was a woman.
The role of Rey, or “ninja”, as I call her in my notes, is what I found most interesting. We are currently in a film age where The Hunger Games, Mad Max, The Avengers and scores of other films feature strong female leads that, yes, sometimes wear incredibly tight garments that stroke the male sexuality, yet their personalities differ greatly from the classic women that we are used to seeing portrayed in Hollywood. No longer are they the damsels in distresses who need men to not only save them, but to fall in line with their vision of living happily ever after. No, these women are who the men call on when they are in trouble. When the men believe for a moment that their female counterparts are in trouble and come barging in to rescue them, they are surprised that their masculinity was unnecessary in aiding the woman's escape. This is our friend Rey.
As Finn attempts to grasp at this womans hand, expecting to lead her to safety, she shakes it away. She does the leading. This is Rey and this is our new Princess-- I mean General Leia. Prepare to see a Leia who, has not only shed her title as princess, but has physically altered her appearance to show that she is a different person. When Hans sees her again for the first time in 30 years, he says, “You’ve changed your hair”. Yes Hans, she has. She is now the ranger in town, equipped with a new outfit, new hair and a personality to make any Texas-galaxy ranger jealous. But again, all coming from my limited knowledge of Star Wars.
Overall, this was not an astounding, life changing film, but it was a good action, sci-fiy movie. It was entertaining, the pace seemed well and it is fit for any non-Star Wars fan to go see. It actually does a great job at peaking the interest of those of us not familiar with Star Wars. I left the film wanting to find out more about these characters and their backstories. Not Luke...but everyone else's. There is enough built around the characters, that with the hint of a threat, our bodies are thrown into a brief moment of panic. Even for Darth Vader Jr. There is a fair balance of death and destruction with dialogue, yet beware at the layers of cheese that are applied around the climax.
My overall rating for Star Wars: The Force Awakens: A-