For a long time I wondered if I was going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I hesitated until the last moment. I was waiting for the first reviews to take a decision. Will go? Won’t go? I dreaded the too enthusiastic first reactions that were drowning the Internet. I still had the bad taste in my mouth from the prequels reviews, which were quite hyperbolic when they had been released (“Attack of the Clones is THE Star Wars you were hoping for!”, “Revenge of the Sith is at last a return to the true Star Wars!”, yeah, riiiight…).
I had found relatively easily the spoilers on the net, so I already knew what was going to happen in the movie. Why seeking the spoilers? Wouldn’t it have been better to discover them in the theater? No. I love spoilers. I learn the same things as people do in the theaters, just not at the same time, that’s how I see this topic. I knew that Han would die, that Leia had a rather static part, that Luke appeared only for a few seconds, and I disliked all of that.
In a pretty surprising way, good and bad critics were basically saying the same things, which didn’t help my decision in any way. The movie was in some regards a copy-paste of 1977’s Star Wars, all the stakes weren’t necessarily explained, but the actors, new as old, were good, and the special effects, as was expected, were excellent. All was thus reduced to where the viewer was drawing the line, and if he could shut down his/her critical mind to appreciate the show. This aspect also worried me. I remembered J.J. Abrams’ former movies, nice shiny objects but which more often than not covered abysmal emptiness story-wise, like his Star Trek, and mostly Into Darkness, a sad reference in that regard.
So it was almost against my will that I went to the theater yesterday morning, grabbing reluctantly my 3D glasses (I wanted to see the 2D version but the theater room was full). Would the magic be there?
Mo more suspense from me, The Force Awakens is a small miracle. Forget about all the intellectual-masturbatory articles which try to hook Star Wars to founding Myths of Humanity, which talk about science in the movies, about their metaphysics, political or economic content, Star Wars at its best has always been a space adventure above all things, a vibrant homage from Lucas to the pulp magazines and serials of his childhood. I can’t emphasize enough that Star Wars owes more to Edgar Rice Burroughs and Alex Raymond than to Joseph Campbell!
And what a great space adventure this is! The adventures of Rey, Finn and Poe (and BB8!) look already as pulse-pounding as those of Luke, Han and Leia! The new actors are indeed excellent, their character are well drawn and touching. And what can be said about this ambiguous villains, Kylo Ren, other than stating that he’s a blast to see, and so promising in his inner conflict! As for the old characters, first of all Han Solo and Chewbacca, it’s as if we left them just the day before.
From now on the deal is sealed as far as I’m concerned. All the rest is just secondary and an alibi to discover and use those new characters. The writing of the movie reminds the pulp stories I’m a huge fan of, first of all those by Edgar Rice Burroughs, of course. The background is defined in small amounts at a time, just enough to understand what’s going on, and nothing more. The characters are defined more by their actions than by their speeches. And there’s also a healthy dose of naïveté, in the form on incredible coincidences, together with welcomed humor and levity.
To this great assets is added a refusal of “bigger means better”, which could have legitimately plagued the project. Yes, The Death Star here has now the size of a planet, but the story remains nonetheless deeply grounded on a human scale. Just two TIE fighter represent a threat for the Millenium Falcon on Jakku! And the final battle of the movie doesn’t feature a thousand ships either. The use of “analogic” effects (models, real make-up effects) instead of computerized ones give a “realistic”, lived-in feeling to the universe, that was missing in the prequels. By the way, I regret that this logic wasn’t fully followed to its logical conclusion. The purely CGI effects stand out in a bad way in the movie: those creatures with tentacles that move too fast for the eye to follow, The characters of Maz Kanata and Snoke, who would have been better served by a puppet or a special make-up. Disney also bought the Muppets, so why not using Jim Henson’s Creature Shop!
Needless to say, all those praises on The Force Awakens could also apply more or less to John Carter. One could dream that Lucasfilm could end up making in addition to Star Wars the sequel to John Carter. A fanboy can dream!
Meanwhile, Finn, Rey, Poe, BB8, welcome in the Star Wars family, I will follow your next adventures with great interest!