That's right. Quit reading now if you don't want to know a lot about the plot of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I've now seen SW7 three times, each time quite different from the others. We saw it the first time the night before it opened, during previews, on Thursday, December 17. We didn't take the kids out of school--in honor of when my mom took me out of school to see Return of the Jedi on its first day--as I always said I would do, because the first previews were at 7:45 p.m. But they decided seeing it the night before was better than being taken out of school. They promised no spoilers, just mild gloating, the next day.
The best part of waiting for the movie to start was that the theater was empty three hours beforehand and we didn't have to wait in line! We arrived around 4:30, tickets in hand, and only stood in line a little bit before being ushered into our theater. We waited for almost 3 hours, with the kids doing homework and reading books, eating popcorn and running down to the food court, in turns, to eat dinner.
And then the previews started. I ignored The 5th Wave and Allegiant. The new Rowling-penned movie, Fantastic Beasts, didn't look great; they need a stronger trailer. The Star Trek trailer didn't attract any attention, these being SW fans after all. But we all laughed heartily at Zootopia, with its slow-pokey sloth. In fact, waiting for the sloth to talk was a lot like waiting for the previews to end so the movie would start.
Then it did. More quickly than I thought, too, because there was not 20th-Century Fox prelude since SW is now owned by Disney. Just "Lucasfilm" and then the iconic scrolling text and THAT SCORE.
Yep, I teared up. Then, and many times more.
Where do I start? I won't summarize the plot, mainly because I'm trusting you've seen it (and if you haven't, you probably don't care much.) So, just some bullet points:
- I loved the use of desert/forest/snow--three iconic SW settings--which immediately took us back to the original films, not those awful prequels (as Mama said, "Those are dead to us.")
- Rey. How can I say enough about Rey? (Do you hear that, Hasbro? #WheresRey?) As Leia was the perfect female hero for my generation in the newly-feminist 70s, Rey is perfect female hero for today--for boys and girls, because I agree with whatever writer (ah, here it is.) noted that Rey is as important, if not more, for boys who aren't used to seeing girl heroes, than for girls who have always inserted themselves where girls don't exist (Yep.) The best scene? The marketplace, with Rey insisting that she didn't need Finn to hold her hand (I laughed when he was knocked out but kept asking if she were ok.) Who is she? Well, everyone's talking about that (I even have my own secret FB spoiler discussion group.) Kenobi's daughter, with that British accent? Luke's daughter, with his theme song, his flying skills, lightsaber, clothing style (even desert-planet origins), mental connection to him (the ocean with the island where she finds him which Ren sees in her mind), her memories of the destruction of his Jedi school? Han and Leia's daughter and Kylo's sister, maybe even twin? A vergence of the Force with no family connection to any of the above? With Abrams at the helm, I can't imagine we'll so easily guess who she is. But I'm glad we'll be seeing her again.
- Diversity. Yay for diversity in casting! A black Stormtrooper. A Latino pilot. Women Stormtroopers and rebel pilots and generals. This is fantastic. Fan-tastic. Fantasy worlds don't need to be all white males, folks. The first one broke boundaries with Leia and Lando; this one went even further.
- BTW, these stormtroopers are much better shots than their forebears.
- Who is that character Max von Sydow was playing? I love that we can't even guess at all the answers.
- BB8. Is it a boy or a girl? Can droids even have gender? I liked the little roly thing with its beeps, but no more so than when it gave Finn the thumbs up. Mama and Sis liked how it went down the stairs at Maz's, too.
- Real sets, human scale. Just like the trailer shown at Comic Con intuited, I was thrilled to see that this was a human-scale real world, not some giant CGI fantasy (Coruscant, anyone? Naboo?) The original films were all about people and their own struggles with good and evil. We're back to that. Perhaps that makes me un-original, in the sense that this movie was very much a continuation, if not a re-hashing of the first film, um, Episode IV. But I'm the kind of fan this was made for--the one who loves the original three films, who saw the original films dozens of time, who bought the toys, who wore the Halloween costumes, who traded the cards, who dislikes Lucas's edits of those same (Han. Shot. First.) and really detested the prequels, someone who is older now and not the demographic for most movies anymore, someone who has nostalgia for childhood and children of his or her own to initiate into the fandom.
- Oh, I got teary seeing Han and Chewie, and then Leia and C-3PO and R2-D2 and finally Luke. Yes, they've aged. None of us are the same age we were in 1977. Duh. Perhaps because we've seen Harrison Ford often on film since the last film in 1983 that we weren't surprised by his age; more likely, we're more accustomed to men aging somewhat more naturally in Hollywood (like Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, etc.) I'm disgusted by the trolls going after Carrie Fisher and so inspired by the way she's handled them (hence, my meme.)
- Leia. I LOVE Leia. In charge. Making the quick, tough, smart decisions. Witty. Sensitive. Hopeful. Fearless. Always my favorite. I've missed her. I'm so glad she's back. I hope her part is even bigger next time. And even though it shouldn't matter, I thought she looked majestic.
- Loved all the insider references. The lightsaber practice ball that Finn tosses aside. The space chess game. The smuggler compartments. Trash compacters. "I have a bad feeling about this." The woman with the little Leia-like buns (who was played by Fisher's real daughter, Billie Lourd.) I can't think of them all right now.
- I liked Maz, even if her hangout wasn't as cool as the original SW Cantina. Though, I swear three times on that I can see an E.T.-like creature being roasted on the spit. Seriously. Looks like E.T. to me. But Maz was a wonderful Yoda stand-in, kinda reminded me of Guinan in "Star Trek: The Next Generation." I hope we see more of her.
- Oh, Han. What can I say? I saw it coming as soon as he was reviewing his relationship with and then hugging Leia. I knew that Harrison Ford had asked for the character to be killed off all the way back in Empire Strikes Back. And here it was. I got teary as soon as he started down that catwalk. And the whole theater was still and silent the whole time, each time we saw it. Why are all the fights and deaths in such huge, cavernous spaces? (Kenobi in the hangar bay; Luke's hand in that Cloud City vacuum; Darth Vader on that catwalk and then in the hangar bay.) But it was beautifully done, with his touching his son's face. I'm not sure I can buy the theory that Han had agreed to be killed to help get Ren in with the Sith and that it was all planned. Who knows. But I was so sad. In fact, watching the movie the second time was even harder because it all seemed like a long goodbye to Solo, with his being featured so heavily and getting so many quips; it was almost too much (good thing I could hide behind those 3D glasses.) The third time was easier. Though, my dad got teary that time and that made me teary, too. Mama didn't understand why Chewie didn't give Leia a hug as soon as he got back to the Resistance base; I know it was a moment with Rey, but still, that rang false.
- I was not one of those fans obsessed with Luke's role in the film when he was absent from the trailers. I did like seeing him at the end, but it wasn't the most important part for me. I loved that setting, though, even if it almost gave me vertigo to watch Rey climb those stairs. It's an ancient site in Ireland, Skellig Michael.
I loved how engaged the first audience was. We clapped at the beginning. And when the "garbage" Millennium Falcon appeared. And for each "legacy" character. And when the lightsaber went to Rey instead of Ren. And when she beat him. And when the StarKiller Base blew up. And when Luke appeared. And of course as the end credits rolled. The second audience, when we saw it two days later with Goo, who finally got a day off from the hospital, in IMAX 3D, wasn't quite as jazzed. But the third audience, with my folks about ten days later, was also clap-happy.
Of course, we all loved it. We've talked about it non-stop--and practically all of our Christmas presents were SW. Mama, who wasn't really a fan the first time, being only three years old, loved it more than I could ever have expected. It makes it all so much more wonderful to have this experience altogether. And we have photos of ourselves in front of the big SW sign each time!
And then, there is my funny SW story. As we were leaving the theater the first night, ripe with the need to discuss it, Bud loudly said, as we passed the long line of people waiting for the first midnight showing, "I can't believe that--" and I quickly clamped my hand over his mouth. I could just hear him say, "they killed off Han Solo." Can you imagine the upset and disappointment of those people? "Ten-year-old thrashed by SW mob at premier." I've laughed about it (and retold it) ever since, because of course it's the first thing we all want to say. Han. That's why I started my spoiler discussion group, so we could talk about it. It's been so odd not to see it written about. We need the official RIP Han Solo obit! I had actually considered warning my friends who have had recent losses about it, as a trigger event, but of course I didn't. We haven't lost many icons from my childhood, at least none of this fictional character's stature, and it was tough.
But I think the series is in good hands. Really good hands. And I love that they are black, white, brown, male, AND female, along with droid and Wookie!
Bud said, "How can I wait two more years to find out what happens next??" I said, "Try waiting 33."
The Force is with us. Again.