On Saturday afternoon, I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my roommate Christopher Kain. Please be warned there are spoilers below. If you have not seen the movie and want to see it, please read no further.
Let me begin by stating I have a love-hate relationship with the Star Wars franchise. When it was first released in 1977, I was not allowed to see it in the most humiliating way possible. My mother drove my older brother Ezra and I to a neighbor’s house to see the film. While Ezra got to go to see Star Wars with a bunch of neighborhood kids, I was excluded because I was too young. Granted I was four years old at the time, but Ezra was all of six. It also didn’t help matters that virtually all the other four and five year olds in my neighborhood got to see it. It was the world’s greatest movie and it seemed I was the only one who hadn’t seen it.
While I did see both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi when they were released, I did not see the original until nearly a decade after it first hit theaters. But in a sense I didn’t need to see it. Star Wars had so saturated popular culture I knew the essence of the story by osmosis. Or more accurately through the merchandise with the action figures and the pop-up books. Like millions of people all over the world, I developed great affection for Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. I never bothered with the Star Wars prequels in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s and would not have bothered with this new trilogy if Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had not been involved.
One can argue that casting a black male and a white female as the main protagonists is an act of political correctness and director J.J. Abrams admits as much. Yet John Boyega and Daisy Ridley prove to be brilliant casting choices as Finn, the Stormtrooper with a conscience and Rey, a scavenger turned Jedi, respectively. Boyega and Ridley will mean as much to young fans seeing Star Wars for the first time as Ford, Hamill and Fisher were nearly four decades ago. The same could said of Oscar Isaac who played the Resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron although he did not have such a prominent role in this first film. Hopefully this will change in the next installment of the series to be released in 2017. Although I have to admit every time I see Oscar Isaac on screen, I wonder if an orange cat will be nearby.
But the audience burst into applause the moment Han Solo and Chewbecca came on the screen as they climbed aboard the Millenium Falcon. Even after all these years Ford has a commanding presence with his roguish charm intact. Yet I must admit I felt an impending sense of doom with him.
No Star Wars would be complete without a representative from the Dark Side. In this case the villain is Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver). I must admit when I saw his version of the Darth Vader mask it reminded me of Dark Helmet in Spaceballs. At any moment I thought Rick Moranis would come out and say, “The ring! I can’t believe you fell for the oldest trick in the book! What a goof! What’s with you, man – come on!”
Kylo Ren does not command the respect Darth Vader once did, is prone to temper tantrums and might be tempted to the Light Side. But it turns out he is actually Ben Solo, the wayward son of Han Solo and Princess Leia (now General Leia). Luke Skywalker trained him to be a Jedi. But when he went to the Dark Side, Skywalker went into exile and it is the task of Resistance to find Luke.
When father confronted son on a bridge on the Starkiller Base I knew it would not end well. Han Solo pleaded with Kylo Ren to come to the light side. Kylo Ren offered him his light saber, but when Han Solo tried to grab it, his son activated the light saber and drove it through his father’s heart. Before falling to his death, Solo gently touched Kylo Ren’s face. That singular act makes Kylo Ren more evil (and cowardly) than Darth Vader ever was. Darth Vader had many opportunities to kill his son, but never did.
Even though I knew a horrible fate awaited Han Solo, it was still upsetting when it happened and stayed with me for the rest of the film and beyond. But he Dark Side wouldn’t be dark without killing off someone so beloved.
Han Solo might be dead and gone, but Chewbacca has a new partner in Rey. She finds Skywalker who nows resembles Obi-Wan. Luke did not say a word. There was no need. There will be plenty of time for Luke to impart his wisdom to Rey in the sequel as Obi-Wan did to Luke all those years ago. The question now is whether Luke face the same fate as Obi-Wan and now Han Solo have? We will have to wait until 2017 to find out. But good things come to those who wait.
While I thought the scene at the bar on Takodana was a bit contrived where it concerned the actions of Finn and to a lesser extent Rey, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is an outstanding film and is a worthy part of the Star Wars canon that will enjoyed for many years to come.
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