Yes, /waves Jedi hand/ you see what I did there.
I’m not gonna lie, I had a very hard time getting excited about the new Star Wars movie. I’d been very excited about a new Star Wars movie before, and that backfired hard. Ever since Jar Jar and the disregard of established canon, I’ve had trust issues.
But as I hate spoilers, I bought an opening night ticket in self-defense, and I sat tense in my seat through the ads and trailers, wearing my Mara Jade costume*, waiting. Daring, just a little, to hope.
And while The Force Awakens is not a flawless film, it’s at least a Star Wars film. There are now four real Star Wars movies in the franchise. (Sorry, I just never felt like the prequels connected. A few good ideas, bogged down by bad ideas and poor execution.)
There’s some good filmmaking going on, and also some good writing. The protagonists have real character arcs and real development. The villain is different — not exactly how I would have done it, but mostly justifiable within the story. A lot could be written on that topic, but I don’t want to go there just yet.
There’s really only one moment where I thought, Nope, that’s wrong, where the canon characterization didn’t fit with the screen action and I was drawn momentarily out of the viewing experience.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
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After Han’s death, when Chewbacca and Rey return to the base, Leia bypasses Chewbacca to embrace Rey in grief. And she should have gone to Chewbacca. Leia and Chewbacca are the two who share the greatest grief, they have a longer history together, they are both bound to Han in ways that Rey is not. Yes, Rey’s our protagonist and needs screen time, but she should have been brought into Leia’s and Chewbacca’s grief, not been the center of it.
Edit: I’m not the only one to feel this way, and J.J. Abrams has called the interaction a blocking mistake and an oversight.
But overall, I was pleased. This is not a film which requires a lot of work by fans to make plausible or enjoyable. I laughed, I felt pain, I was glad I’d spent my ticket money. I enjoyed it. If you’re like I was, hesitating because of the prequels, go ahead and watch it. (And because I’ve been asked several times: no, no knowledge of the prequels is required!)
*The fun thing about Mara Jade is, even though her EU timeline is no longer canon with the new sequels, she might still have existed. Might still exist. Because the whole point of Mara Jade’s first position was that she was always there and you never saw her. So what if she may no longer be married to Luke in current timeline? There’s a tiny reference to her character’s influence in the new movie’s plot. She might still be in the background, doing what she did before coming to the Light Side and joining with Luke and the others. She might be beside you right now, watching along with you in that darkened theater, observing you silently from behind those 3D glasses….