Star Wars: the Force Awakens(Spoiler Free)
Few films and stories have sparked creativity, wonderment, and awe into my childhood like Star Wars. Being a first generation fan (being raised in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s), Star Wars has grown with me (and within me) with a deep love and passion. Meanwhile, J.J. Abrams has been like a second generation Lucas: being a man who creates stories and awe both on the big screen and television; ranging from creating Lost to Spielberg-esque Super 8 to amazingly rebooting Star Trek. The question is, can he perform the same magic for the Star Wars universe and mythos?
Abrams collects a dream team: John Williams returns to do the music, Lawrence Kasdan as scriptwriter, (the chief writer for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi), the old guard (Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as General Leia, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, and Anthony Daniels as C3PO), along with a new team to whom the torch will be passed: Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. The stage is set. What follows are two sections: the review of the film, and a brief analysis on what makes Star Wars so special.
The big question: is the film any good? Answer: no, it is not good…it is fantastic. From the smile that comes from the opening line in the credit scroll to the immense desire for more at the start of the ending credits, The Force Awakens is the epitome of big screen adventure and movie magic (and a film very much worth repeated viewing – especially to catch all the little cameos, like Daniel Craig’s Storm Trooper talking to an imprisoned Rey; as well as nods to the original trilogy).
Abrams provides a Star Wars film worthy of the name, and humorously delivers the perfect emotional story to advance the series in to a new direction. With a sigh of relief, J.J. Abrams will not be nick-named Jar-Jar Abrams.
To avoid any potential spoilers, I will refrain from discussing the plot itself. While there is a lot of use of practical effects, CGI still played a big role for the film. Abrams utilizes CGI rather than forcing it (pun intended). Such a strategy resulted in a great blend of not only old and new cast, but of old and new methods of special effects.
Somehow, John Williams composed new music for the Star Wars universe which felt so natural, I almost didn’t recognize it as new. Rey and Ren’s musical themes blended seamlessly, allowing the Star Wars experience to be an experience for both the eyes and the ears.
I give the film 4 out of 4 stars, and highly recommend it for anyone aged 9 years and older. As for those under the age of 9, you will have to know what your child can handle. This film is rated PG-13, and I feel clearly earns it.
What Makes Star Wars So Special?
What is it about Star Wars that makes it so unique? Why does it resonate with so many across both cultures and generations? One piece to this puzzle is how the movie is a fictional story which alludes and points to something 100% historically true and accurate.
How does this fictional story point to something real? Amongst the obvious would be the battle of good vs evil and the desire for justice. However, many films share these motifs, yet Star Wars stands above and beyond those films both socially and culturally. Therefore, there is more hidden beneath the surface.
Notice how the series is about something amazing coming from something obscure and seemingly insignificant. Anakin Skywalker is an obscure little slave boy whose life impacts the universe (for good or bad) in an amazing manner. Luke Skywalker is an obscure moisture farmer whose life impacts the universe in an amazing way. In episode 7, we have an obscure Stormtrooper and a seemingly insignificant scavenger whose lives are about to have an amazing impact upon the course of history. In all three trilogies is the common theme of something big coming from something small.
While many of us feel small from time to time, and desire for something great to happen (making watching a movie a vicarious experience attempting to fulfill that dream), perhaps there is something more to this greatness from smallness motif.
Think of an obscure child born in a city called Bethlehem. This child moves to Nazareth, a town with the reputation of insignificance. Yet, from obscurity and insignificance comes something amazing: a seemingly random child who grows to become a simple carpenter, who later will have an amazing impact upon both the course of history and all of creation. This child is Jesus (the Christ in Christmas). Such an allegorical approach could place Star Wars amongst the top of Christmas movies.
A second piece to this puzzle is the reality of the battle of life. While there is a physical battle between good and evil, there is also a mystical/spiritual battle (which is just as real). The result of this spiritual battle in Star Wars between the light and the dark side will eventually hold the fate of the physical battle which continues to linger on. One day the spiritual battle will be over, and with it ends the physical war. The light side will win, and justice will reign. Does this motif point to a reality in today’s world? Yes. The life of Jesus (as well as His death, burial, resurrection, ascent, and eventual return) is a physical reality of spiritual/mystical proportions. The spiritual victory of Jesus will one day result in physical victory; Jesus’ return will be God setting the record straight, and defeating all evil.
Here is my point: Star Wars is special because it is an allegory, a glimpse, of something very real; something that speaks to the depth of the human soul, trying to awaken it from the darkness of sleep and into the light of faith. The existence of God is evident in every human. (though some have suppressed this truth so deep they have fooled themselves into thinking there is no God). Every now and then, a movie like Star Wars comes long…and whether intentionally or not, it speaks to the souls of people, and awakens the cry for morality, the cry for justice, and the cry for a spiritual peace that leads to physical peace (something only God can do).