It should come as no surprise when Star Wars: The Force Awakens meets with a string of positive reviews following its India release on December 25th. After smashing box office records and sweeping critics’ scorecards across the globe, it’s pretty clear that the seventh installment of the hallowed franchise has struck a nerve with die-hard fans worldwide. But what is truly special about this film – and what is powering its continued success nearly 40 years on – is its ability to masterfully balance the demand for a futuristic and stylistically modern big-box action movie with the insatiable hunger of fans who continue to worship its seemingly timeless, almost sacred past.
Like me, you may not be a die-hard Star Wars fan; I enjoy the movies, but my attachment ends there. Nevertheless, unless you live in a galaxy far, far away, chances are you know where this reference originates (the last of this post, I promise). At some point in your life you’ve probably hung out with Darth Vader at a Halloween party, or put up with someone’s terrible Yoda impression (let’s be honest, suck most of them do). Lightsabers, Storm Troopers, the occasional Chewbacca in your Happy Meal. At the very least, you’ve had a crush on Han Solo, except you just know him as young Harrison Ford. Princess Leia? *high five!*
Whatever your experience with Star Wars, The Force Awakens is a thoroughly entertaining two hour and fifteen minutes nostalgia ride aboard the Millennium Falcon – not only for those who camped out for a full week outside theaters or watched the first-day first-show in a customized bathrobe, but for anyone who embraces longstanding, shared cultural experiences that connect people across geographies and generations.
As far as plotlines go, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will keep you comfortably glued to the screen as you follow what are mostly simple but satisfying themes unfolding to their mostly predictable conclusions: family, friendship, love, and the battle of good (The Force) versus evil (The Dark Side). While not groundbreaking, the movie is a series of tightly knit and beautifully rendered space adventures sprinkled with just the right dose of humor. Newcomer Daisy Ridley delivers an excellent performance as Rey. As always, the film keeps you in constant wonder of its alien worlds and the wonderfully imaginative cast of supporting characters that truly transport viewers to distant and strange realities.
However, what really brings this movie home are the comforting and familiar. My favourite moments – and I suspect it will be so for most adults of my age – were the gradual re-introduction of characters that we have all in some ways grown up with. After three prequels that relied on new, younger actors, The Force Awakens allows us to revisit the faces that catapulted Star Wars into a cultural phenomenon in the first place: The trademark smirk on Han Solo’s face; the aged yet still beautiful Princess Leah; the rhythmic-yet-robotic cadence of C-3P0; and perhaps most surprisingly, the unmistakeable beep-beep of R2-D2. (For a brief moment, I was reminded of the very first toy robot my parents bought me as a child – a mini R2-D2, in Sudan of all places.)
Yes, yes, C-3PO and R2-D2 did make appearances in Episodes I, II and III. But those movies took place chronologically before the original IV, V and VI, and therefore did not truly feel like a homecoming. Maybe it was just Jar Jar Binks. Whatever the reason, J.J. Abrams‘ Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the most satisfying reboot of the originals to date, and a promising start to what promises to become another classic movie trilogy.
Rating: 4 Stars