I hope you are all enjoying your holiday season. My friend, Joe McPherson, hosted a Christmas party last night, during which we talked about what Christmas of 2015 was really all about, the new Star Wars movie. One of our friends even went out of his way to attend a late showing of the movie the night before because he knew there was no way we weren't going to talk about it.
Since I've seen it, I've been reading up on some of the criticism, so let's take a look at some of that first.
The Dark Side
It's basically just a recycled Episode IV.
I have to admit that I, too, was thinking this in the theater. Orphan on a desert planet gets involved in a galactic war between good and evil factions, and helps to destroy the bad guys' enormous battle station.
Kylo Ren was no Darth Vader.
No. Of course he wasn't. You're never going to make a more iconic villain than Darth Vader. What you can do, however, is show how sad it is to try. For me, this is what made Kylo Ren the most interesting character in the movie.
In spite of having the coolest dad in the galaxy, Ben Solo idolizes his maternal grandfather, and does everything he can to be just like him. He trains in the Force, he embraces the dark side, he commands a bunch of stormtroopers.
People were complaining about the hilted lightsaber since the first trailer came out, but I think it's perfect. Kylo Ren is a whiny brat who wants to look cool. He wears a Vader-like mask which he totally doesn't need, and he wields a lightsaber with an impractical light-hilt because he thinks it makes him look like a badass.
My favorite scene in the movie was Kylo Ren going apeshit in the control room with his lightsaber.
There was a black guy in it!
There were other complaints, but they're all overshadowed by what this movie did right.
The Light Side
Relics of the old empire.
The scenery in The Force Awakens was stunning. Ruins of walkers and star destroyers, half buried in sand. Vader's charred and warped mask. Han.
And it was cool that an industry sprang up involving scavenging parts from the old wreckage. That made for a perfect segue linking the three-decade gap between episodes.
Spaceship battles in atmospheric conditions.
I don't know why this got me so excited, but I suspect J. J. Abrams knows, and that's why he made that shit happen.
It was fun in exactly the same way the prequels weren't.
Yeah, you can count me among the prequel haters.
If you set Fran Drescher on fire, and in her agony she was screaming the script to "Chairman of the Board" while clawing your eyes out, and her skin and your eyes regenerated at the same rate they were being burnt and clawed, you might have some appreciation for how I felt watching Episode I: The Jar Jar Binks Vaudeville Comedy Hour/Commercial for Video Games In Production.
And the next two movies, Episode II: Less Jar Jar, but More Boring and Episode III: Who Even Gives a Fuck Anymore?,
George Lucas is to sci-fi what Adam Sandler is to comedy. How the fuck do you make Samuel L. Jackson boring?
But Episode VII changed all that. The Force Awakens felt like a Star Wars movie. It was full of characters I cared about, lasers flying everywhere, a new cute robot, fun banter, and again, Kylo Ren going apeshit in the control room with his lightsaber.
It was fucking awesome!
I often hear people say how, when Episode IV came out in 1977, it changed their lives. I used to envy those people, because I never got to experience that. I was born in '77. I don't remember the first time I ever saw it. I just kind of grew up with it in the background. I knew Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father before I knew that it was significant.
I came into being with general knowledge of Star Wars. I've seen the original trilogy a gazillion times, but it was always re-watching a story I already knew by heart.
When I saw The Force Awakens, I felt that spark. I got to experience the Star Wars I missed out on as a kid. And, more importantly, my six-year-old son, Jack, felt it even more than I did. He's a pretty fun-loving kid, but I've never seen him more excited by anything. His fists were balled up and trembling during the final lightsaber battle.
Thank you, J. J. Abrams, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fischer, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, and everyone else who put this together. You created a moment between my son and I that I'll treasure forever.