There's something sacred about seeing Star Wars on the big screen. Even though I missed out on the original run, the first movie I remember seeing in theaters was at the Cinemark here in Kingman watching the re-release of "A New Hope." I was nine years old and I recall feeling enraptured by the world these people lived in. I remembered trying to duck from blaster shots when Stormtroopers captured Princess Leia's ship and breathing a sigh of relief with Luke when we watch those proton torpedoes find their target.
They were feelings that I took for granted when I was younger. As I get older, it's becoming more difficult to suspend my disbelief and pluck me out of reality for a few hours. Star Wars was one of the first films to do that, and I was reluctant to step back into that universe fearing that it would somehow tarnish those childhood memories.
It took eight seconds of John Williams' iconic fanfare to bring me back to the Star Wars universe, and 135 minutes to assure me that the franchise is in good hands with Disney.
"The Force Awakens" is far from a perfect film, and J.J. Abrams and Disney were clearly looking to resume the universe rather than reinvent it. They brought on Williams to score the film, amassed an army of puppeteers and practical effects experts, and tapped Lawrence Kasdan (the screenwriter who helped pen "The Empire Strikes Back") and Michael Arndt ("Toy Story 3" and "Little Miss Sunshine") to co-write the film with Abrams.
All those efforts paid off. While the script suffered from needless exposition at times as it tried to remind us that "Return of the Jedi" was over 30 years ago, the dialogue wasn't as wooden as the prequels and had that Abrams charm that moviegoers either love or despise. BB-8 is in the running in the "Most Loveable Droid" category thanks to an expert puppeteering crew that injected personality into metal. Hearing the score to "May the Force Be With You" reduced me to tears on a few occasions.
The film doesn't feel like it was contained on a green screen soundstage, nor did the camera stay static like it did in 1977. It's a great synthesis of new and old that, for most film buffs, doesn't go unnoticed.
Even the plot feels new while maintaining everything Star Wars did right. There's a ton of nerd rage out there saying that the plot is "A New Hope" all over again. If you come out feeling the same way, I'd encourage you to watch the original again (and read "The Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell). They're very different films, even with some of the recycled plot points. Kylo Ren is a much more conflicted villain than Darth Vader, the twists carry a different kind of weight to them, and the multiple story arcs we're presented with are actually worth getting emotionally invested in.
And, as nice as it was to see Han, Leia and Chewie on screen again, it's the new characters that really steal the show. Poe Dameron as the hot-shot X-Wing pilot and Finn as the defecting Stormtrooper have a great bromance going on while characters like Captain Phasma struggle for more screen time. All the new characters felt as if they were in the Star Wars universe all along, and we as the audience were coming back to visit them.
But this story isn't about us. It's all about Rey. Portrayed by Daisy Ridley, who had only a few TV series roles prior to this, Rey is as classical as heroes get. From her Ordinary World on Jakku, to her Call to Adventure with BB-8, to her constant Refusal of the Call as she waits for her parents, Rey is a character in motion. Without revealing some key plot points, I'm excited to see her tested and grow throughout the next two films.
"The Force Awakens" was always meant to be a film that passed the torch from the films of old to a new generation, and it's clear that the film has one foot still planted in 1983 as it tries to do so. That's a good thing, too, because you don't want to uproot a behemoth franchise like this completely and alienate the fans.
The fan service here is in seeing the characters we all thought to be living happily ever after, knowing that they still have a story left to tell.
I give this film a solid 4 out of 4 Miners.