Star Wars Cinematic Universe Retrospective: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

God, I love The Force Awakens.

And I’ve loved it since it came out – I saw it at the cinema with my beautiful and brilliant co-writer and life partner, the first Star Wars movie I had seen on the big screen since been old enough to really put into words what this universe meant to me. I remember walking through the city I lived in at the time, and hearing people around us, in the street, talking excitedly about it. The Force Awakens felt like it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype, and yet, it did.

And then, after that, it seemed like everyone just changed their mind. The deluge of thinkpieces and deconstructive videos that came over the next year seemed intent on taking all the bloody fun out of the first part of this sequel trilogy. Rey is a Mary-Sue! There’s too much fan-service! It’s just a remake of A New Hope! It’s too diverse wait that’s not a problem you fucking idiots and I refuse to allow you to pretend that it is!

But I’m here to say this: shut up. I mean, I totally understand accept that there are some films that just don’t work for people for reasons that are far too miniscule and specific to begin to dissect – we can critique a movie into the ground, but you can’t logic someone into liking something by sheer force of film theory.

In all fairness, though, I do find a lot of the critiques thrown at The Force Awakens to be easy to dismantle. Rey is a Mary-Sue? Only if you’re not paying attention to her excellent wordless introduction as a scavenger intimately knowledgeable about the inner workings of starships and the legend of the rebellion. The film is a redo ofA New Hope? Only if you count every story that takes on the hero’s journey as a rip-off of the same. Too much fan-service? No. Such. Thing.

But more than anything, The Force Awakens slams all by Star Wars buttons in a way that almost no other film in the franchise has ever done. You’ve got the double-hander of brilliant villains – Kylo Ren’s pathetic fanboy of a Sith lord is inspired and complex, and then Domnhall Gleeson’s walking sneer is delightfully unconflicted and totally evil. You’ve got Rey and Finn, played by the impossibly charming John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, acting as both our wide-eyed fanguides into the history of the universe, and as wonderful throughlines in the search for identity that runs through the centre of this story.

(also and this has nothing to do with anything but we’re here now so roll with it: if Rian Johnson had wanted to go with the Finn/Poe romance storyline, it would have made perfect sense based on their interactions in this movie. The run into each other’s arms? The “it suits you”? The fact that Poe names him? That’s some googly-eyed romance bullshit if I’ve ever seen it, especially since I prefer Rey and Finn as a platonic reflection of one another instead of a couple)

And maybe what speaks to me most about it, more than the great characters, the rollicking story, the return of a particularly wonderful Harrison Ford, more than the real effects and lovingly-crafted creature designs, more than the killer action or the tight script – is that it feels like a Star Wars movie made for people like me. Rey and Finn are nerds for this universe, for this story, the way that I am, and the film wants to revel in their passion for the history of the saga the same way I and so many other fans did.

This isn’t, in the way so many sequels or remakes are, an attempt to one-up what came before; it’s a loving and reverent declaration of adoration of the expansive and inviting Star Wars world. The Force Awakens feels like it comes from the same place that my love for this franchise does, and that’s about the best compliment that I can think to give it.

If you enjoyed this article and want to see more stuff like it,  please check out our other cinematic universe retrospective – for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Jurassic Park movies, and the Batman cinematic universe. You can check out more of my work on my personal blog, The Cutprice Guignol!

By Louise MacGregor

(header image via Bustle)

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