The Force Awakens: Happy Hype

Force Awakens Poster

SPOILER ALERT: JAR JAR BINKS DOES NOT APPEAR IN THIS MOVIE. In fact, the three “prequels” are not mentioned. This gives purchase to those of us who maintain that those films were actually nightmares Han Solo suffered while entombed in Carbonite.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a gleeful cinematic ride with as many dips and turns as the Millenium Falcon in a dogfight with Imperial TIE fighters.

At least half the fun is seeing the band getting back together. The audience cheers when Leia appears,Leia

when Han and CHewieHan and Chewbacca appear.

And Luke. And R2D2. And the Falcon Falcon— which may have the best “return” of them all. That’s the moment you know you’re in a familiar galaxy, albeit one that’s far, far away.

Not to give anything away, but “The Force Awakens” is largely a remake of the original “Star Wars” film, AKA Episode IV; AKA “A New Hope.” Just slot in the new young faces into the Leia, Han, and Luke positions. To that extent, the plot is predictable. To mix sci-fi metaphors, it’s obvious who’s wearing Star Trek’s red shirts, even how they will exit.

Producer J.J. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (who worked on the original trilogy) restored the sense of fun of the original and then some. There’s much more humor than in the 1st (or 4th, depending on how you count) with both verbal and visual set-ups. Much of it comes from teasing the audience be recreating some scenes exactly, while at other times coming close, then stepping sideways. The usual “homage” to other films is there, from “Apocalypse Now” to “Indiana Jones.”

If there’s a failing, it’s that very familiarity and predictability. How many desert planets are there in this galaxy? There’s not much you can do to differentiate between Tatooine and Jakku. Scruffy border towns have the same bars, the same, bands, and the same denizens.bar critters How can the bad guys top the Death Star? Build something bigger and badder, with a nod towards Abrams’ first film in the Star Trek reboot.

All in all, after the thrill of reunited with the beloved characters fades, I think that sense of wonder that kept people returning to see the original over and over may not be there. Part of that is the progress of technology. The impact of the special effects that were mind-boggling 30 years ago has long been suffused by computer graphics and other technologies.

And since the plot is already known, the changes in casting aren’t enough to make it a “new” story. It’s like watching “Casablanca” or “Singing in the Rain” — more comfortable than exciting.

Still, it is a satisfying reboot which stops at an interesting juncture for the saga and the audience. Episode VIII comes out in 2017. Fans are already standing in line.