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Film in Review

By Bill Arceneaux

Last week, I wrote a humorous piece with my reverse self, giving last minute speculation on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And there was even an article maybe a month or so before that. And one on a blog of mine. And countless tweets. And… well, that’s probably it. The time has come for the full review. Enjoy!

I laughed, I was surprised, I was full of joy, but I never cried. Star Wars: The Force Awakens certainly runs the gauntlet of emotions, if only judging from the sound of people tearing up at a few moments. Each of these moments is certainly earned and built up to properly, but perhaps didn’t have the same impact on me personally as the original trilogy did when I was younger. For me, the story wrapped with the celebration on Endor. Everything/anything after? Interesting, but superfluous. Wonderful, but slightly unengaging.

Slightly, mind you. The Force Awakens is, by all accounts, a triumph. From its opening shot of a starship eclipsing a moon, to its world building and attention to details big and small, and concentration on the complexity of characters and relationships, THIS IS THE NEW STAR WARS MOVIE WE’VE BEEN WAITING FOR. In fact, I’d rate it my third favorite in the series, right after The Empire Strikes Back and A New Hope. It was a bold step in breathing fresh air into something almost ruined by over-saturation and poor thought. Leave it to an uber fan to bring balance.

We are introduced to many new characters, but the important three are Finn, Rey and Kylo, as suggested in the final trailer. All three young adults carry with them the weight of their respective pasts, which are mostly mysteries to be unfolded, and through the thrust of the adventure, may just learn to move on progressively, for good or bad. The connective tissue to the others in the series is not with what happens, but who it happens to, and how we and others feel about them. For the three new leads, it’s without much effort that we find ourselves caring for and about their plights. Space opera? Space soap opera? Either or, really.

The Force Awakens shares this and much more with A New Hope, leading some critics and fans to call foul. Carbonite copy, they say. Not so much, I say. Yes, there is a love letter aspect to the original film and even the original trilogy as a whole. Surprisingly, it’s more than that. It’s more than just the commentary on its own place in pop culture as I had predicted. It’s a new struggle. A new journey, with new perils and conflicts, both external and, more importantly, internal. It’s new escapism at its finest.

So… what was that stuff about being unengaged? About being superfluous? This is where my 30-year-old self-hits hard with my adolescent self. It might be a case of Polar Express syndrome, where I no longer hear the ringing of the XMAS bell if you will. I felt a lot, I enjoyed much, but never quite connected in the same manner as I did when I was younger. Instead of rushing to buy t-shirts and toys, I got practical Crocs shoes. Instead of dressing up as a character, I wore a hoodie because it was cold outside. Instead of crying at the twists and turns, I found myself impressed with the cross like lightsaber wielded by Kylo, as it was an extension of his reckless and immature nature. I guess I appreciate things differently now.

If I learned anything from this, it’s that the more I age, the more Star Wars stays the same. Thankfully. The Force Awakens didn’t bring out that wide-eyed child who watched VHS tapes of Luke Skywalker learning the mystic ways of the Jedi, but it did make me think about who I am now and who I will be later on. To look at a movie like a mirror is something I look forward to when going to the theater. It’s a great return to spiritual form and a great new testament of tales. Those little kids I saw at my theater, smiling from ear to ear? That’s what it’s all about.

5/5 *s

For more from the author, follow him on Twitter at @BillReviews

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