Fair or not, generations are often remembered by events that coincide with their lives. Stories are told to younger generations about what it was like to be alive during these events. Sometimes, these are dramatic, world-altering events, such as World War II, the JFK assassination, or the 9/11 attacks. Other times, these events are much more light-hearted, revolving around famous athletes or concerts like Woodstock.
For a generation of filmgoers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, the Star Wars franchise was their defining moment. The original release of A New Hope far exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations and launched one of the biggest entertainment franchise in the world. Adjusted for inflation, the three films that make up the original trilogy rank in the top-20 grossing films of all time. Sadly, these were all released before I was even born.
I was around, however, for the release of the prequels, and remember the passion and excitement surrounding the release of the first prequel The Phantom Menace. Finally, I would be able to experience the energy and fun of the theatrical launch of a Star Wars film! A wee lad of 15, I remember trying to buy tickets to opening weekend, only for the theater near my house to be sold out.
Maybe the film gods did me a favor there.
It’s well-documented now that the prequel trilogy, while incredibly successful financially, couldn’t come close to replicating the critical and emotional success of Episodes IV, V, and VI. When you combine that with George Lucas’s constant tinkering with the original trilogy, adding needless CGI and altering the timeline of events, it’s certainly understandable that people have become skeptical of the forthcoming new films.
And it’s to you jaded skeptics that I say this:
Allay your fears. Go see The Force Awakens. Right meow.
When he was tasked with reviving the ailing Star Trek franchise, writer/director JJ Abrams faced the daunting prospect of appeasing the hardcore Trekkies and attracting the casual fans to the franchise as well. For the most part, he succeeded with the 2009 release by injecting humor and sleek visuals while paying homage to the various shows by adding various pieces of nostalgia throughout the film. The result was a funny, action-filled visual tour-de-force that’s prompted at least two film sequels and a new unnamed television show. Seeing this success, Disney (fresh off the acquisition of the franchise) was quick to tie Abrams to Episode VII in the hopes he could do the same. The result is a film that’s likely to win over a new generation of fans and appeal to older generations who grew up watching the movies and reading the books.
Returning in their familiar roles are much of the core of the original trilogy. Mark Hamill is back as Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi whose disappearance prompts the events of the film. Carrie Fisher returns as Leia Organa, this time as a general of the Resistance, which has evolved from the Republic of the original trilogy. Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), C-3P0 (Anthony Daniels), and R2-D2 all make appearances in the film. Much of their interactions and dialogue are very familiar; I found myself smiling and laughing several times like I was part of a friendly reunion, remembering old times.
For the most part, though, their roles give way to the new generation the trilogy focuses on, namely Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), along with new adorable android BB-8.