As someone who came late to the Star Wars franchise, I have always said that I loved the world Lucas built and the mythology he built more in the abstract. I love the idea of Han, Leia, Yoda, The Force, and the whole creative world behind it. I felt that the movies always disappointed me when it came to what I imagined Star Wars could be. Since I approached the movie with that perspective, The Force Awakens gave me the movie that I always really wanted Star Wars to be. It was big, bold, beautiful, cheesy, but not as stilted in the narrative and dialogue.
That being said, knowing our six year old was freaking out about going, I will give a few pointers. As GeekDad pointed out in their review, there’s a lot of intensity to this movie. Little man is pretty much a kid who had no empathy until he was four and a half and then BLAMMO it exploded into his tiny brain. He is worried about watching things where people die because “on the screen it looks more real because it’s like more specific and you can see things more in detail.” With this in mind, we brought with us a “scare package” that included a blanket to put over his head when he got scared and his favorite stuffed animal, and we let him wear pajamas because it was late. I would definitely recommend a “scare package” if you’re bringing a sensitive little with you. The first twenty minutes are pretty intense, and little man used the blanket a few times during that. We also used it later on during the climax of the movie when a lot of battle action happens.
And now, my List of Reactions:
6) I may have finally, after seven years, forgiven J.J. Abrams for the ending of LOST. In all honesty, I never thought the ending was bad, per se. I was miffed that I believed his whole “not a purgatory” blah blah at SDCC. Or at least, I’ve forgiven him 95%. The other 5% burns with the type of feels reserved only for the most intense literary moments I’ve had.
5) Adam Driver is amazing. Interestingly, I will say that there were several places where I saw him as basically his Girls character with a big black cape. Both characters have similar self-confidence issues and Svengali-esque controlling powers. Despite that, his breadth and depth in some of his later scenes in Star Wars: The Force Awakens are fairly amazing. There is a particular very meta moment that he portrays so flawlessly that you almost forget he isn’t the real character doing the thing he’s doing. Kylo Ren is an interestingly flawed character. You almost get the sense that he’s the Anakin we really wanted the first time around. Although, as little man pointed out, “He’s too weak to ever be good.” I think it will be interesting to see.
4) Lupita Nyong’o is, again, fabulous. A few days ago, I read the Buzzfeed article discussing how she approached her role as Maz Kanata differently and enjoyed the disembodiment of the role. I know that I brought that into the theater with me when I watched her scenes. I admit to focusing less on the visual of the character and more on the emotions and voice acting. Her talents truly shone and made the character come to life. As little man said to us in the car on the way home, “Her character is supposed to be old, but she doesn’t feel old because the person pretending to be her doesn’t act old.” I thought that pretty much summed it up.
3) John Boyega was amazing. On the way home, we discussed how the new characters paralleled the originals. Boyega’s Finn is probably somewhere between comedic relief and Han Solo, which makes him an enjoyable character all around. One of the best parts of this was being able to talk to little man about the way Finn makes decisions. Again, little man felt that Finn acted cowardly but we ultimately noted that he makes the right decision in the end and overcomes his fears. He is unsure but trying, like most of us. I enjoyed him as a hero and enjoyed Boyega’s wide eyed portrayal of him. Keeping in mind that his character has never left the stormtrooper hive, his wonder at being out in the world is fun to watch because it is so similar to the intellectual awakening a lot of people feel when they leave home. There’s a fun sense of wonder and surprise the character has that I feel echoes a lot of us sitting in the theater watching the movie.
2) Daisy Ridley’s Rey is exactly the character many female Star Wars fans wanted. She’s tough. She’s no nonsense. She’s caring without being sappy. I felt that her scenes with Leia were some of my favorite scenes in the movie. I felt that she did a great job portraying a character that will have a lot of analysis thrown at her. I also think that once you see the movie, the awkward Abrams comment about wanting to make a movie that moms and daughters will enjoy makes a lot more sense. Unlike the original franchise that approaches the world from an “Old Boys’ Club” attitude, this one portrays really cool characters regardless of whether they are black, white, male, female, or anything in between. Very little is made of characters being anything other than what they are as people or aliens or droids. They exist and that existence is defined by their actions. I felt Rey was a really great example of this. She could have been male or female. The bad guys often refer to her as “that girl people are talking about” and yet with the few exceptions her femalehood doesn’t define her or the way others perceive her.
1) BB-8. Anyone who knows me knew that this was going to make my list. She was my favorite character. If you love animals, you’d love her. BB-8 comes across as a really lovable puppy. It’s a very loyal little droid, as are most droids. The best part is really how the droid manages to communicate through head gestures and body language in a way that R2-D2 was never quite able to do. There are coy moments, joking moments, serious moments. I felt that the ability to take the robot and really make it emote in a nonverbal way was pretty excellent. R2-D2 always had a bit of that ability, but I really felt that the way BB-8 was used in the narrative as well as in the technology made it more obvious.
Overall, I loved this movie. I really do think that it brings new life into a franchise that many love. I am pleased that it will be the first Star Wars movie experience my son has. I’m excited that he overcame his fears and came with us because when he is our age, he will remember this when he writes a blog post about the reinvention of a franchise that he fell in love with as a child.