Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Do I have to?

Well, people were asking me 15 minutes after I had seen it what I thought, so yeah, I guess I have to. The response given to these people was, “It didn’t suck,” and it doesn’t. But I like to let a movie percolate for a day or so before I trust my opinion.

It didn’t suck.

There’s a lot of static on the Interwebs complaining about the *ahem* lack of originality in certain aspects of the story. The question here, I think, is have you been paying attention over the last ten years or so? The current marketplace does not reward originality. It often actively punishes it. Therefore, carbon paper is the preferred method of moviemaking. I’m not really surprised that The Force Awakens relies on “the same, just bigger” for its action setpieces. There is a memo somewhere mandating this, I’m sure.

By concentrating on rhyming instances, though, you are missing the very strength of this new chapter: an abundance of heart, and the very, very welcome return of humor to this universe. The new characters are strong and deserving of our attention. The return of – literally – older characters helps that medicine go down just fine, thank you, and provides more than a little resonance with our own youth.

maxresdefaultI was 20 years old when the first Star Wars came out. I stood in line for hours on its second day of release, thankfully in the air conditioning of the lower level of Houston’s Galleria. 38 years later, here I am again, standing in line. There are some parts of our dystopian future that do not suck; I had bought my ticket in advance and was only waiting for the doors to open. Fifteen minutes instead of hours.

So I am deeply aware of the magic that happened that day at the beginning of Summer 1977. I know, I know, you wanted that feeling back. You wanted to leave the theater feeling the same way your younger self did, dazzled and intoxicated by the possibilities of cinema bent to a compelling story.

To engage in more acquisition from an earlier property, you can’t go home again.

Star Wars (I still refuse to call it A New Hope) hit like a thermal detonator because there was nothing else like it in a comparatively parched movie landscape. As Jessica Ritchey brilliantly reminds us over at rogerebert.com, Fox’s big moneymaker for the season was supposed to be The Other Side of Midnight. There had been pulpy science-fiction before, but it was almost inevitably a low-budget affair. Good special effects were only to be found in the rarified field of Thoughtful Science Fiction – 2001: A Space Odyssey and Silent Running. This… this was Flash Gordon with a budget. And it was fun.

You want to know why you left The Force Awakens disappointed? It’s because practically every movie and TV show made since, science-fiction and otherwise, has been Star Wars. Be it an attempt to reach Peak Special Effects or yet another rehash of The Hero’s Journey, they’ve been trying to catch that lightning in a bottle. Of course you don’t feel it’s original. It’s been cannibalized and recycled multiple times in the last four decades.

In 1977, there was nothing like Star Wars. In 2015, everything is Star Wars.

So you feel let down. Fine, that’s your right. I was too, a bit. But let’s not go tearing down quite so vociferously what other people – especially kids, kids of color, little girls – are enjoying and building future dreams upon. We had our trilogy. Let them have theirs.

Because I’m going to bet that, if you loosen up a little bit, to allow yourself to have just a little fun, they’re not going to mind you coming along for the ride, at all.