Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Star Wars: The Force Awakens ★★★★★

I don't think I've ever cried out of sheer happiness. It's an incredible feeling, and one I had figured I would never feel because of my relatively pessimistic attitude on most things. The Force Awakens achieved this, not through emotional manipulation or cinematic perfection, but by simply inducing a powerful sense of nostalgia inside me. I remembered my childhood, when I watched a Star Wars film nearly everyday, not through a critical lens but simply as a kid who allowed himself to be consistently enthralled by something as simple as a film. Entire afternoons spent simulating large-scale battles with hundreds of tirelessly collected action figures, temporarily existing in a whole other world through simple feats of imagination. A time when my obsessions with the characters and worlds Lucas had created were more important than any grades, financial worries or thoughts of the future to my young mind. Arguments would arise when my Star Wars knowledge was in question, and subsequently entire nights were spent browsing Star Wars encyclopedias to impress those who challenged my self-appointed superior fandom. For a solid 8 years of my life, Star Wars was everything to me.

I was nervous entering The Force Awakens. All the marketing and castings I had seen were enormously promising, but the possibility of Abram's failing to rejuvenate the world of Star Wars lingered for months in my mind. I had developed dangerously high amounts of anticipation beforehand, and whether or not I would enjoy the winter season hinged on the quality of The Force Awakens and it's placement within the Star Wars franchise. I wore a costume, I had a sleepless night prior because of a desire to marathon through the films, I probably failed a college final, and I prematurely bought tickets for two showings in a row (1:30 AM and 4 AM). I was wholly invested, spiritually and physically, in Abram's effort.

I can thankfully say, without a doubt, this will be one of the more memorable events of my life, cinematic or otherwise. I could have nine kids, marry the woman of my dreams and go to space; I will never forget the unabashed glee for my entire life (barring a brain injury of some sort). That's how good The Force Awakens is. That's how deep my love for Rey is. And that's how thrilled I am that this franchise is in good hands.

It's not a perfect film by any means. I was disappointed they did not stray from the whole idea of a planet destroyer once again. The callbacks to the originals, while welcome, were perhaps a bit too frequent and intrusive to the flow of dialogue. The humor was a key player, for better or for worse, and while being hilarious may have limited some of the tension in the narrative. Captain Phasma is under-utilized, I'm skeptical of a certain CGI-rendered villain and the Millenium Falcon takes far too much damage.

But flaws have never been easier to overlook. By far the most exciting aspect of this new trilogy is the incredible characters Abrams and those portraying them managed to create. Rey is remarkable, brought to life by the incredible Daisy Ridley and instantly my number two movie crush. She's so deceivingly independent and capable that it's easy to miss that she is one of the finest female characters in a major film in years. John Boyega's Finn is hilarious and unique, instantly accessible and delightfully enthusiastic to just be in a Star Wars film. Po is suave, BB-8 adorable and the old cast fits right back into there roles from decades ago.

Kylo Ren, Star Wars' latest villain, is a great contradiction to the Sith of the past. He's unhinged and untrained, sort of akin to Anakin Skywalker but without the forces of light to sway him. He's not in control of himself, he doesn't recognize the extent or limitations of his power, and Domnhall Gleeson's political leader is a rival power to him. He's fallible and vulnerable, mysterious in some respects but menacing in his instability. Much like Vader, he takes on a different persona when unmasked, adding a really compelling layer to the previously unsympathetic evil in Star Wars films.

I can't sing the praises of JJ Abrams enough. While his vision is certainly unique to Lucas', it retains the mythical approach to storytelling and world-building that made his works great. Like A New Hope he recognizes the idea that we all appreciate a story that recalls our childhoods, told through unassuming nobodies evolving into figures of heroism. Modern effects are utilized to inject life into the franchise, but he manages to recall the glory of Lucas' boundless imagination in the best way.

I'll remember Thursday night as some of the best hours I've ever had in the cinema. It was an out-of-body experience, an ethereal and overwhelming barrage of emotion and happiness unlike anything I have felt before. This is the simple joy of being a film fan. The ability to become so engrossed, so involved and so in love with something you know is not real, and to allow it to become fundamental to who you have become. It's a world fully of mystery, wonder, adventure, action and humor, rife with heroism and a wonderfully inadvertent celebration of life itself. Star Wars is surely one of the most important players in my life, and I look forward to being able to grow up once again in the universe I have loved for so long.

As I said prior to it's release, what a time to be alive.

The Phantom Menace

Attack of the Clones

Revenge of the Sith

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