Sitting in a theater for the premiere of a movie is an electrifying feeling. As I waited for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to begin, I realized that I was more nervous than I had any right to be. Would this movie live up to my expectations? Would it be better than the atrocious prequel trilogy?
Perhaps most importantly, would it make us feel the same sense of wonder that captured the previous generation when they sat down for the original Star Wars in 1977? Luckily, the latest film, while derivative, still provides enough thrills for even the most jaded viewer.
The plot of the film is largely familiar to longtime fans of the franchise. A ragtag group of heroes, often with conflicting motivations, must work together in a dangerous world.
Many of the characters are archetypes we’ve seen before, with scoundrels working together against crime lords and cartoonishly evil villains. The fights are believable and unpolished, a far cry from the acrobatic swordfights of the prequel trilogy, and as in the original three films, the sets are believably cluttered and worn down. We even get a surprise return of a character from one of the earlier films!
I didn’t watch the trailers that were released in the lead-up to the film’s release, so it was a surprise when Mace Windu, played with superb overstatement by Samuel L. Jackson, appeared with his partner-in-crime Vincent Vega (John Travolta). Revealed to have survived his fall from the Jedi Temple in Revenge of the Sith, Windu now works for the crime lord Marcellus Wallace, a callback to the Jabba character seen in Return of the Jedi.
The film has several different plotlines, which all connect at the climactic finish. Vincent goes out with Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman), where they dance in a scene reminiscent of the Jabba’s Palace scene in Return.
Butch, (Bruce Willis) a Han Solo-esque boxer, double-crosses Marcellus and attempts to flee, but eventually takes up a primitive lightsaber to protect the man who wanted him dead, in an apparent homage to Luke’s unwillingness to kill his own father.
The plot eventually comes back around to Mace and his job as Marcellus’s enforcer. After killing several men in cold blood with a blaster, having lost his iconic purple lightsaber, he and Vincent are ambushed. Protecting them both with the Force, Mace is forced to lie to his friend and claim that they were protected by faith.
Later, at a diner, a clear homage to Dexter Jettster’s restaurant in Attack of the Clones, Mace disarms robbers, not by force, or even by Force, but simply by talking them down and convincing them to leave peacefully, symbolically reclaiming the Jedi philosophy that he had abandoned by the beginning of the film.
The ending of The Force Awakens, though an obvious lead-in toward the rest of the trilogy, was satisfying in itself. By recalling other elements of the franchise, the latest movie pays homage, and, yes, takes advantage of our nostalgia. But it works out.
From the seedy cantina run by Marcellus to the familiar banter between the main characters, I always felt that I was watching Star Wars. I would be remiss if I didn’t note the level of the diversity of the film, which features almost more female speaking roles than the other six films combined, and more racial diversity than ever seen in the Star Wars universe.
Despite this, the film never feels too new; like the original Star Wars, it feels timeless in tone and plot. It’s with high hopes for the rest of the trilogy and for the franchise as a whole that I give this new Star Wars film a 10/10.