When J.J. Abrams accepted the job to direct the latest Star Wars it was immediately greeted with longtime fans bemoaning how this could spell the doom of attempting to resurrect the franchise for the big screen. People remembered how they were displeased with what he did with the 2 recent Star Trek movies with its unusual set design and plethora of lens flares, and they were already hitting all forms of social media blasting the decision by Disney/Lucasfilm to allow “Jar Jar Abrams” to taint this franchise, despite the fact that most of these same fans heavily criticized creator George Lucas for his changes with the original trilogy and practically everything about the prequel trilogy.
These concerns are unfounded. While Abrams has admitted on more than one occasion that he was never a Star Trek fan, nor had he ever watched a single episode or film from that franchise, he had also been as equally forthcoming in his love for Star Wars and his deep desire to play in that universe. This is what makes The Force Awakens such an unusual movie. We now have a totally new director, and a story that had absolutely no creative input from George Lucas, and Abrams has managed to craft something that “felt” more like Star Wars than anything we ever saw in the prequel trilogy.
One of the characteristics from the original Star Wars trilogy, especially A New Hope, is how Lucas was trying to recreate the fun, space adventure feel of the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. He wasn’t so much out trying to imitate them, but he wanted to take the very spirit of those serials and update for a mid-70’s audience. Abrams knew that, and when he, along with Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, Raiders Of The Lost Ark) and Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) went and examined all of those elements that worked in the original trilogy, distilled them, and then recombined and repackaged them for this movie to where characters and elements are, in part or in whole, call backs to pieces and characteristics in the original trilogy.
While some people might not like seeing so many nods and references to past films, most people will enjoy how all of the pieces are brought together to create a story that is original, and yet familiar to long time Star Wars fans. New characters are introduced in strong and exciting ways, giving each of them a journey to allow them to develop and grow during the course of the film. Old recurring characters are given spectacular entrances that brought lots of cheering and applause from the audience, and all the while both old and new characters were able to work beautifully side by side in that same ensemble feeling that made A New Hope such a winning film among fans.
The movie is filled with plenty of twists and turns, some very obvious, and others so subtle that fans may not even realize they are there until after seeing episodes 8 and 9. This is the genius of the story. Abrams, Kasdan, and Arndt crafted a tale that had just the right amount of sophistication for today’s movie going audience, but not at the expense of the pure simplicity that made the original trilogies so great.
One last joy to this movie is the creation of a new character that will unquestionably become the most beloved in the entire franchise, and it is of the droid BB-8. Through some remarkable technology in his creation and operation, the rotating ball with a droid head is able to emote an amazing amount of emotion, from whimsical to sad. While BB-8 toys have been popular since the new line of Star Wars toys went on sale, the popularity of this movie will no doubt make BB-8 a very much in demand toy for this Christmas season.
Watching this movie reminded me of seeing A New Hope for the first time. The fun and sense of adventure were plentiful, and seeing the return of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, especially as they shared screen time, was very satisfying to watch as both actors delivered very strong performances. The music of John Williams also helped to recreate that sense of nostalgia while watching this movie, as it felt more like the score from the original trilogy than the music that was composed for the prequels.
One of the hardest things in making movies is to take over from its original creator. That person now has the unenviable task of making something new and fresh, and yet make it feel like the original product. J.J. Abrams has succeeded in this. He has stepped up to the plate and has done the impossible. He has shown the world that we can go home again.