February 1, 2016
One of my most vivid Star Wars-related memories is not my most pleasant. During a seventh grade English class, my teacher told us about how he was struggling to think of an appropriate Christmas gift for his grandson. “Is Star Wars something you kids are into these days?” I perked up, ready to give a proud “Yes it is!” and profess my lifelong love for the franchise to my classmates. However, before I could say anything, one of the louder students there that day blurted, “Star Wars is for babies!” Shocked by the realization that not everyone dressed up as a Jedi for Halloween, I sunk back into my seat, bottling up what would have been an embarrassing confession and a one-way ticket to the losers’ table at lunch. This memory was one of the many thoughts racing through my mind as I eagerly awaited the opening text crawl of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.”
From the instant the Star Wars logo flashed on the screen, I did not stop smiling for several minutes. It hit me that after all the trailers I had watched and watched again, this was finally a real experience that I was about to have.
The movie quickly introduces newcomers to the series in a manner that makes them shine thematically, in new roles rather than obvious ones that would replace the original heroes. Poe Dameron, the Resistance’s best X-Wing pilot, is played by Oscar Isaac. Even though he has a minor role in the story, he is an easy character to enjoy having on screen. John Boyega’s character, Finn, fills a series-first role of renegade stormtrooper in search of a cause. It may be said that J.J. Abrams wrote a little too much Americanized sass and attitude into Finn’s character, but his humor does provide refreshing scenes of comic relief to the film. Daisy Ridley plays her role of mystery-shrouded Rey with triumph. It could be argued that she is the main protagonist, as Rey, on several occasions, shows traits of leadership and confidence essential for one in her position. These three are well-equipped candidates to be passed the torch for the new trilogy.
The primary antagonist of “The Force Awakens”, Kylo Ren, brings a, dynamic, unsettlingly complex character to a flat, “let’s-blow-this-thing-and-go-home” storyline. His evident psychological troubles and obsession with Darth Vader make him a far more interesting plot point than his predecessors. His struggle with the Dark and Light adds a feeling of ambiguity to his personality that is entirely new to the series. This is an excellent direction to go for his character development, and I’m sure we’ll see more of it in films to come.
Despite all the good, the force-driven narrative that propels this story is not without its flaws. The actual story of “The Force Awakens” harkens all too strongly back to “A New Hope.” I remember thinking to myself while watching for the first time, “Don’t you think the First Order would have learned that big round things that shoot other big round things just don’t work? Pick something else to wreak havoc!” Callbacks to the original trilogy are all fine and good, but the Death Star’s replacement Star Destroyer, the Starkiller Base and the sole mission to destroy it are what make the newest addition to the franchise so much like the original trilogy. Abrams was given a blank canvas upon which he could add countless new dynamics to the Star Wars universe, but, instead, he played it safe and adapted a plot that had already been used twice before: shoot the bad guys’ big weapon.
None of this is to say that “The Force Awakens” is not a cinematic triumph. Its use of modern cinematography and seamless incorporation of practical effects makes it all the more deserving of the innumerable records it has shattered. The stage is set for all kinds of new adventures with our budding heroes, and the future is promising. Star Wars is once again a franchise that everyone at the cool kids’ table talks about, and that’s all that my seventh grade self could have ever wanted out of a continuation of his favorite epic from a long time ago in a galaxy far away.
-Noah Mathis, Contributing Writer
this article appeared in Vol. 97, Issue 7 of The Mississippi Collegian