And so, I rejoiced when George finally decided to hand over the rights. Finally! We had a chance at redemption! The inclusion of JJ Abrams was also a positive. I’ve been an on and off fan of his as well. If JJ could rein in some of his tendencies, then we might just have a chance. (For the unaware, JJ Abrams loves mysteries . . . but he doesn’t like solving them or explaining them; as a result, many of his revelations are either absent or disappointing).
But then word started to leak. Sure, the old cast would be back, but so would the Empire. And the Rebellion. And, oh yeah, peace hasn’t come to the galaxy. This worried me, because more than anything else in the original series, the thing I loved the most was the happy ending. The bad guys were beaten, the heroes had found love or closure, and some characters even found redemption. It was perfect (well, perfect enough).
|The Star Wars kid in all of us.|
Regardless, opening day I was there with my son. The opening scroll started, and I was a kid again, against my will. And to my surprise, I found myself happily laughing, clapping, and even cheering along with the film. As the film wound towards the final scenes, I found myself loving it dearly. But then . . . something happened.
It’s been months, so chances are you already know what happened. But just in case, SPOILERS lie ahead, young Padawan.
|One of Star Wars' many Prerequisite Bottomless Pits|
I was mortified. This film, which had so skillfully coaxed out the young and exuberant Star Wars fan inside this man, suddenly, ruthlessly and traumatically murdered his childhood hero before his eyes. It’s like getting a beautifully wrapped present on your birthday just to find a decapitated head inside. My son was equally horrified. I was numb throughout the rest of the movie. Sure, there were some cool moments; I vaguely remember a light-saber fight, a big celebratory ending, and even some swelling music at some point. But my mind kept going back to that one horrifying moment, as Han tried to connect with his son, just to get a badly designed light-saber in the chest for his trouble.
The rest of the movie was a dull, emotionless blur for me. I was devastated, horrified, and angry. This wasn’t how Han decided to go out. He was a hero, dammit! He had earned a happy ending! At very least, as a rogue, hero, and true friend, he deserved to go out in a blaze of glory defending his friends: a kamikaze run for the ages. Instead we get a badly lit lifetime moment followed by millions of Star Wars fans crying out.
It’s hard to get past this moment. I’ve seen the film 3 times now, and all in all, I think my feelings for it lean positive. I like the new characters, though their pasts are all shrouded in Abrams' usual fog of mystery. The existence, motivations, and even structure of the villain is shady and unclear as is the need for the new rebellion. I’m confused why the galaxy would need a non-government run “Resistance” to fight what appears to be a rogue terrorist group. Rey, the new main character, is strong and compelling though it’s hard to imagine that the answers to her past will be as interesting as the mystery itself.
|Abrams and THE star of Star Wars|
In the end, it’s the death of Han and the method in which the film chose to do it that feels the most out of place. While I feel I understand the choices and what function the event serves in the story, the method in which it was carried out felt excessive and cruel. The film was looking for a shocking moment to sell it, and it found one; unfortunately, it may have lost some of the more sensitive fans along the way.
So, if you’re looking for a fun romp in the Star Wars universe, the new film may just be for you. But if the happy ending of Jedi means anything to you, you might want to stop there.
You can read more reviews by Mike (and about Star Wars) here.