I actually became a fan of Star Wars in 2008, so I missed seeing Revenge of the Sith in theaters, but when I first started the series, I was hooked. My favorite kinds of movies growing up were the ones like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Casino Royale, or Toy Story. They’re just pure, unadulterated escapism, a time to become enthralled by the sheer imagination at hand. Those, to me, were the perfect mix of fun and adventure and these types of movies have a great impact on a kid.
So, imagine my excitement when a new Star Wars film was announced. After my initial misgivings about the corporate motives behind the new production dissipated, I couldn’t believe I was going to watch a Star Wars movie in theaters for the first time (which I feel is a rite of passage for a fan).
What I saw on December 18, 2015 was something I’ll never forget. Everything from the mechanical whir of a TIE Fighter to the iconic roar of a certain Wookie instantly transported me back to a galaxy far, far away, where my worries slip away and I became ten years old again. The Force Awakens was directed by J.J. Abrams, a self-proclaimed Star Wars fan, and this designation is not wasted on him. Everything we love about this world is (literally) firing on all cylinders, and the craft, both the intricate practical effects and the gorgeous space landscapes, should be appreciated.
There were times, as I was watching Episode VII, when this film dipped into the quality of an homage to what had been done before. For example, Tatooine, the desert planet from previous films, is a new (but not really) planet called Jakku, and Hoth, the snow planet, is now Starkiller Base. There’s another planet-sized weapon that needs to be blown up and a tall, black-masked figure behind it. And, our orphaned, lonely protagonist, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is whisked off of Jakku to become the galaxy’s newest heroine. Sound a bit familiar?
The Force Awakens really tells a simple, familiar story of good vs. evil, but I connected with it in a way that I haven’t with any given film in recent memory (the last was Toy Story 3). But while it isn’t complex, relying more on action than substance, it was a well-crafted, entertaining experience, and I enjoyed it the whole way through. The new leads (Ridley and John Boyega as Finn) are charming, the new droid is cute, and the action is exciting. And Han and Chewy are back. What’s not for your inner-child to like?