OK, I saw the new Star Wars movie and there will be spoilers in the comments, so feel free to join me to discuss – but this main post is going to be a brief spoiler-free review.
As I have stated elsewhere, I simply cannot be objective about this film because I imprinted on the original trilogy like a baby duck. I saw the first Star Wars during a re-release before Empire came out. Yes, children, in the days before my job in Home Entertainment was possible, movies could only be seen in movie theatres, and when a sequel came out, smart studios would re-release the earlier ones so people could catch up. At five I was maybe a skosh too young for the original 1977 release, but I know my parents saw it and enjoyed it and thought I would be old enough at around eight to enjoy Empire, so they took me to both those movies in relatively quick succession. I was hooked – and I do not use that as hyperbole. My addiction led all the way down the dark path of breaking and entering.
My parents had these friends – the McCunes – who had no children, but a couple of sweet dogs. They liked to borrow me to “dog-sit” (they were trying to decide if/when they wanted children and I was AN ANGEL so my parents farmed me out to convince them. Not kidding.) and they had an extensive library which I was allowed to pick anything out of to read. At first it was Donald Duck comics, and then I found the Star Wars comic and then… the movie tie-in. Again, in the Long-Long-Ago, before your Beta-maxes and your streaming videos and your binge watching, when a movie was out of the theater it was gone. Your only option to re-live the experience was tie-in novelizations. This was after Empire came out so I was maybe around nine, and I would go hang out at their house with their beagle and cocker spaniel and read through those tie-ins non-stop. Then I would put them back on the shelf and go home. I wasn’t sure I could ask to borrow them. It seemed like an imposition, so I just made arrangements to come back the next day. At some point in the week I finished the first one, and started in on Empire. I was still on Hoth by the time the street lights started coming on, so I left. Both of the McCune’s would be out of the house the next day, so I wouldn’t be able to come over. I figured that would be fine. I had lots of books at home, and even toys such as the genius (would someone please scale these up for fat adults?) Sit ‘n Spin, a kewl bike with a banana seat AND one of those giant wire spools that you could pretend was a table for tea-time, conference furniture for galactic negotiation, part of a circus act or a tie-fighter (best toy made out of garbage ever). I would be fine. Only about halfway through the day I was not fine. I had sat and spun til I was dizzy – several times. I had stood on the sideways wire spool and log-rolled it into the sunflowers against the back fence. I got on my bike and decided to ride around, and where did I end up but the McCune’s house. Huh. That was interesting. I knew they weren’t home. But I really, really wanted to finish Empire. Or at least get off Hoth, which as an all-white snow-scape of a planet, was not the most dynamic setting to imagine. Hmmm. What to do?
The answer, obviously, was to go into their back-yard, climb into the window-well (after checking for black widows) and crawl through the basement window to retrieve the book. Which, after greeting Jenny (the beagle) and Curly (the cocker spaniel) with the customary pettings and a verse of their theme song, also co-incidentally set to the tune of the main them in John Williams SW score, is exactly what I did. Later when my dad got home, asked absently where I got the book and learned that it was through cat burglary, he demanded I give it back with an apology. Which I did, reluctantly, after making sure I had finished the book. That weekend we went to B. Dalton and my parents bought me my first ever non-YA chapter books, right from the grown-up, sci-fi section of the bookstore. I read through SW and TESB again that week. And that ended my brief foray into crime.
So. Enough of that particular nostalgia.
About this new movie.
Did you see the original trilogy before you were 16? Did you like it? Are you going to piss and moan about Ewoks because you want everyone to know you are SO KEWL and hate all that ewok stuff because you are a SOPHISTICATED HIGH-CLASS ADULT who has no problem with green muppets speaking with Germanic syntax at all because that is fine, but FUCKING EWOKS AMIRITE? (ok, ewoks have nothing to do with this movie, but the amount of random yelling I hear from people my generation insisting that the prequels suck, but the original trilogy is the most brilliant thing on two legs EXCEPT for those gay ewoks makes me roll my eyes. I have opinions about ewoks, OK?)
If you loved the original trilogy, and especially if you were a young person when they came out, you will enjoy this movie. A lot.
I’m not going to go through any plot points (I may in the spoiler comments) but a few things to note:
This movie is a broad adventure.
The Universe is a big, diverse place full of wonder.
Ordinary people begin to realize they may have extraordinary destinies.
There are cool ships and droids, all of which look like they have some years on them.
This is a David vs. Goliath story, and we always want to root for the underdog.
There is some humor in this universe, but not potty humor or winking irony.
The “legacy” cast are not there in cheesy cameos, nor are they used in a defensive “See fans? Look, they are passing the baton, Are you happy now?” way (I had Issues with the way Kirk was integrated into the first ST:TNG film). They are even more than important to the plot; they are part of the story. The movie could not exist without them.
The new cast are not shoe-horned in or the sake of symmetry. They are resourceful and cowardly and funny and heartbreaking like real people. Their actions make sense. They are likeable.
That said, I will issue a caveat or two.
The first is important – remember the original trilogy, for all its “homages” to westerns, the 7 Samurai, etc (Lucas was nothing if not the 1970’s version of Quentin Tarantino) was essentially the Hero’s Journey. It’s a very familiar template. I think my favorite way to look at it was suggested by a medievalist who claimed Star Wars was an Arthurian Romance. The stories in the original trilogy – especially the first and third – were parallel by design. This film follows in those footsteps. Much of Abrams’ failure with Star Trek was rooted in the fact he didn’t understand that’s not how the Star Trek universe works, that you can’t throw mythic parallels and “homage” in without just looking like a lazy fan-fic writer because that was never a trope in ST. Conversely, it does work – it is designed to work – in Star Wars
A friend tells me Alan Dean Foster will be handling the novelization of this film as well. I think I may just pick up a movie tie-in novel to tide me over before the inevitable home entertainment onslaught. I will even pay for it with my own money, which is good, because there is no way I’m going to fit through a basement window anymore.