Let me preface things by saying I am a huge Star Wars fan. I've loved the original trilogy since I was a kid.  I watched the movies, played with the action figures, slept in the sheets. I'm with the masses in my belief that the prequels had some good ideas, some good moments, but overall were a failure. The announcement of a new episode in the Star Wars mythos got me excited, but I resolved to keep it a 'cautious optimism' and not let myself get carried away. However, as the premiere date came closer, I let myself get more and more excited.

There is a trend in movies (and television) lately to ask the question "well, what would REALLY happen?" in these fictional worlds. The Christopher Nolan version of Batman was supposed to be a gritty realistic adaptation, free of comic book magic. The Walking Dead is supposed to show how things would go in the "real world", as opposed to a movie. The new Star Wars tried to answer the question of what would happen if there really was a government that ruled the galaxy then was suddenly overthrown. Things wouldn't end happily ever after - there would be some that fought to keep the old ways, and the rebels wouldn't just slide right into leadership. It was an interesting direction to take the franchise in, allowing the thirty-year gap in our universe to run parallel to a thirty-year period in the Star Wars universe.

Thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi, the galaxy is once again in the middle of a war. The Empire was defeated with the destruction of the Death Star 2, but just killing Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader did not wipe out everyone with allegiance to the Empire. A group known as the First Order have amassed a huge army and a new super-weapon with the plans to destroy the Republic. New heroes and new villains are introduced, familiar faces return, there is a solid balance of old and new.

If this was the first Star Wars movie I ever saw, I would have left the theater happy. The characters were interesting, the settings were incredible, the music was inspiring, the acting was fun, the casting was perfect, the action scenes widened my eyes, the jokes made me laugh, and the big reveals shocked me. Even though this wasn't the first Star Wars movie for me, I still left happy. It wasn't perfect, but it was a great set-up for new chapters in the Star Wars story.

I really felt like this was a labor of love for those involved. I might be a bit naive, but it felt like the writers and actors and director were fans of the original, and just excited to be part of it. After watching the original movies for three decades, I can't even imagine what it would be like to pick up a light saber, or to climb aboard the Millennium Falcon, or to put on a full suit of Stormtrooper armor, or to see myself on screen with a John Williams score behind me. This chapter, and those upcoming, seem to be in good hands, and my 'cautious optimism' turns more into blind enthusiasm.



On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" gets a 9 out of 10.


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