So apparently there was a big new Sci-Fi film debuting this weekend? Here are some initial thoughts from the gang. It’s become easier than ever before to indulge your Star Wars fandom, whether that be with action figures of every character that’s ever appeared on-screen (and off) or with Star Wars-branded options for everything from waffle makers to credit cards to limited edition tennis shoes. So while I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to refer to Star Wars fans as beleaguered, I do feel most are in agreement that they’ve been radically underserved in terms of the quality of the franchise’s theatrical releases post-1983, specifically the prequel films. I’m sure most of us would have happily traded away the world’s supply of Star Wars-themed Snuggies and other superfluous crap if it meant one more moment of that spark we felt from the original trilogy could make its way to the big screen. I’m happy to say that it feels like The Force Awakens truly delivers. In place of the stiff dialogue and wooden performances of the prequel films we find a return to the warmth, wit and charm that made the original trilogy so endearing. It’s not perfect, but neither are Episodes IV-VI when removed from nostalgic hindsight. When it stumbles, it does so in a way that we can accept as the kind of rough-around-the-edges human error that occurs when propelling forward at maximum velocity because you are absolutely in love with the story being told and the world it inhabits. Where the prequel films seemed determined to punish us by explicitly over-stating every detail of Anakin’s rise and fall, squashing all nuance with the heavy-treaded boot of Lucas’s hubris, this film flits deftly from scene to scene offering just enough to convey what we need while still leaving some tantalizing questions. The performances from the new cast are fresh and invigorating, while those of the veteran cast members feel comforting and familiar. It’s a synergy that is perhaps best summed up by the word “family.” The sense of scope in The Force Awakens is truly astounding, not simply in the variety of worlds encountered but in the complexity of the environments and their inhabitants therein. And the threats facing our heroes are both explicit and imminent, not mired in hours of boring political subterfuge, requiring immediate and direct action. How that action plays out is a joy to behold. Having grown up with the original trilogy and a love of Star Wars strongly rooted there, I’m happy with what is a return to form while also being tremendously excited for what lies ahead. Clearly, this is a new direction in terms of where we were left with the prequels and their treatment of the source material. It’s a shame that Episode IV already scooped the tagline “A New Hope” because it would have been particularly fitting for Episode VII. — Adam Barraclough “There’s been an awakening. Did you feel it?” I remember when the first Star Wars movie came out. I was twelve. The excitement was so high that my family scrambled to get last minute tickets one Saturday afternoon. The car was in the shop, so we had to take a bus. By the time we got there, there were no seats together, so we had to sit separately. Once they movie started, it didn’t really matter, and we had a great time mulling over it afterwards and comparing notes. That was the excitement I felt today, when I went to see The Force Awakens. A mad scramble to be one of the hordes in line. It was like A New Hope all over again. J.J. Abrams had let me down a few times before (ST: Into Darkness, Armageddon, Super 8) but this seemed his ideal property, ideally funded, wonderfully cast, and just the right time and place to resurrect this beloved cash machine. That’s an unfair wisecrack, because I’ve loved all the tie-ins. I’ve loved the promotional buildup. I love the t-shirts and the soundtrack albums and the disco singles and the action figures and on and on. The reason those toys sell so well is that they’re an integrated part of a fully imagined world, one that the comics and novels have long embraced and expanded. We love that long ago time in that far far away galaxy, and we couldn’t wait to get back there again. My audience clapped (not standing ovation, but sustained applause) three or four times at pivotal moments or reveals. I was at a special screening for employees of my workplace that I purchased tickets for in November. Families were there with new kids, people in costumes, grandparents and young couples, all races, a sea of excited diversity who all had one thing in common. There was a palpable buzz in the air. Were we going to be let down again? I can barely even remember going to the prequels, I know I desultorily saw each of them twice on the big screen (sometimes in New York, sometimes in Boston) just to see if I could find any good parts at all. That won’t be a problem now. I may not go see it 16 times (in my high school in 1977, there were competitions over who had gone back the most), but I’ll go see it again for fun. The next generation has arrived, and they are worthy. The older generation is still there, and they get their moments of operatic grandeur. The wide open vistas, the alien worlds of varying climates, the spectacular space battles with character-actor pilots are all there, seamlessly folding into the legacy. We get a new song for a new kind of Cantina scene, and the two major CGI characters are actual characters, not just animated designs. I may have a few problems with the solar physics rather hastily on display (hard SF not being Abrams’ field of play, but then I know this was always a space opera), but I’ll leave the internet to pick those apart in the coming weeks. What I wanted was to be moved and involved by this ongoing fantasy, and to care enough to come back for the next two installments. Mission accomplished! — Shawn Hill “OmigodOmigodOmigod!!! It’s STAR WARS!! Everyone is here! Han and Chewie are home – Leia’s hugging Han – and there’s Luke, kneeling down beside R2D2!! The Millennium Falcon blasting out of the sky with TIE Fighters in hot pursuit! Lightsabers!! Droids!! And these new people all look super cool!!” That’s what it sounded like in my head as soon as the world got a look at the trailer for The Force Awakens, seemingly a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Though he’s been hidden from view for a long time, the boy who once had adventures on planets called Tatooine and Hoth and Dagobah was still inside. That child played lightsabers with the cardboard tubes from rolls of wrapping paper and once packed his snowspeeder with firecrackers because he wanted to somehow experience an aerial dogfight like the ones on an imaginary snow planet. That child managed to get ahold of damn-near every action figure, vehicle, and playset from the Star Wars universe, even though he came from a poor family that could only send him to school in Salvation Army Store clothes. None of it mattered, because Luke Skywalker was just a poor farmboy himself, and Han . . . well, Han just didn’t give a rip what anyone thought. It meant more to get the new Boba Fett or Admiral Ackbar than having some shirt with a damn alligator on it anyway. These folks weren’t my only heroes growing up, but I spent a lot of time in their world. That was the magic, I think, for me and everyone else. This world might have started inside the head of George Lucas, but, once unleashed, it belonged to our world. Everyone was a fanboy and we could do whatever we wanted with the things this man had created. Even later, when it seemed like the creator of Star Wars himself was trying to destroy the world he’d made, the rest of us still hung on. It’s almost like it was us, not Luke Skywalker, who were the new hope of the galaxy. So the child who saw all of this, felt all of this in relation to a very flawed fictional world full of make-believe characters, saw those first images of a brand new reimagining of his Star Wars universe. You can forget all of that Jar Jar stuff, all of those midichlorians, and Hayden Christensen’s less-than-stellar performance. None of that mattered. The love had survived in spite of all the things everyone complained about, because the world those things came from belonged to that child. But there’s an adult standing here now, where that child used to be. Where there was once hope, there is mostly weariness. In place of innocence, there is both grateful and regretful experience. This guy doesn’t play with action figures and his heart usually feels like it belongs to one hardened son-of-a-bitch. This guy has seen maybe a little too much of the world, maybe felt the dark side a little too often. This guy felt the excitement for a moment too, but turned his head, scoffed: I’m sure they’ll find a way to screw this up too. But something surprising happened as I sat in that theater this morning. It didn’t even have anything to do with most of the things on the screen in front of me, none of which I’m going to reveal here. I would like to preserve that magic if I can. And there were moments that did feel pretty damn magical, some gleaming light within the dark. What happened was, as I sat there in the dark, those familiar words came up on the screen. Telling us about a long time ago and a galaxy far away. The words faded. There was that momentary pause, one-one thousand, two-one thousand . . . then boom! That John Williams score blasted to life and the words Star Wars leapt onto the screen. And there were tears in my eyes. — John E. Meredith Anything I have to say about The Force Awakens is going to sound suspiciously like Disney is paying me to say it. Trust me, they’re not. However, if any Mouse ears are listening, I’m not above a little payola. Feel free to call my people. I watched this new entry into the Star Wars canon twice over the past 24 hour period, and I just can’t find anything to criticize. There’s a journalist deep down inside that knows this is irresponsible and naïve, but he is being thoroughly silenced by the wide-eyed kid who could quote chapter and verse of the original trilogy. J.J. Abrams and company have produced a movie as huge as a galaxy while keeping it as intimate as a tie-fighter cockpit. This is a story that has been continuing unabated during the past thirty-two years. Technologies have been allowed to age and become outmoded. People have not only aged, but they have lived lives of pain and hardship unwitnessed and without fanfare. Abrams hits just about all of the notes we want to hear, but he also adds some new melodies that really swing. The new characters are fully and respectfully introduced, new mysteries and secrets are dangled, and the past acts as a prologue to what we witness. I tried desperately to not set myself up for disappointment in the weeks leading up to this premiere. I prepared myself to accept that this just wasn’t the same Star Wars that I grew up consuming. I told myself that six-year-old me simply didn’t exist anymore and I could never recapture that innocent reverence that I held for the original movie. But then I bought the tickets and took my seat in the theater and realized that my expectations were hung as impossibly high as it was possible to reach. I actually teared up a little when John William’s music burst from the speakers and the opening crawl began. By the time the closing credits began to roll, I realized that I could find nothing to be disappointed about. There are certainly some things I need to ponder. One particular plot point is something I have to find some way to accept (sob!). But it easily lived up to any expectation I could hold up to it. — Rick Shingler Saw The Force Awakens last night — no spoilers in this discussion, so no worries. On the whole, it was good-to-very-good, if not quite the sheer jolt of electricity that we got back in 1977 (but really, nothing is ever going to be — not in the same way, certainly). A couple of things come to mind: Star Wars has always borrowed freely from other genres and films, and this one sees fit to borrow mostly from other parts of Star Wars itself (although there is an Alien homage-of-sorts). This isn’t by itself fatal or even problematic, but it does give the movie something of a “Star Wars‘s Greatest Hits, Remixed” flavor. (No 12″ version yet; that’s next year.) It’s also something of a shame because the truly original stuff in it this time around is the best part of it. Finn and Rey are excellent torch-bearers for the future of the franchise, and it’s good that they lead the action instead of following it. J.J. Abrams does fine work with the film, but only because he’s the sort of director who’s only as good as his material. With both go-rounds on Star Trek, he was saddled with the job of trying to turn the franchise into action fodder, which it most certainly isn’t, and the end result was ghastly. Here, he’s more or less at home — it’s clear he loves Star Wars with all his throbbing heart — and so his choices are more in line with what this project demands. But it also confirms my thinking that Abrams is ultimately no more than a competent mime of other directors; left on his own he doesn’t really do much of anything except recap other people’s high points. The thing about Spielberg and Lucas is that they grew up with an earlier generation of filmmakers that deserved study: Kurosawa, for instance. It’s obvious Abrams grew up watching Spielberg and Lucas, but that’s about as deep as he can dig. I am now wondering if some of the bits and pieces left over that Lucas never used — the Kiber Crystal, for instance — might end up being pivotal in future installments. Some major untapped possibilities remain there. It’s weird to come back to Star Wars after all this time, in big part because it was Lucas’s film-school experiences with Kurosawa that sent me down the road to Japanese film and Japanese culture generally (and later anime and manga). By the time the prequels came out, I felt like Star Wars had outlived its usefulness for me, so I went in with zero expectations and came out pleasantly surprised. But all the same, when I walked out of the theater, I knew in my marrow that there was no going back to 1977 no matter how hard we might try. Harrison Ford’s pointing finger has become at least as iconic as Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber. — Serdar Yegulalp Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related 2 Responses Lost in Translation 238 – The Disney/Fox Deal | Seventh Sanctum Codex December 16, 2017 […] took over Star Wars, the same dire warnings came from fans. 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