Any seasoned Star Wars fan watching The Force Awakens would have found its themes as familiar and comfortable as a poor Yoda impersonation. However, looking past all the flash, dash, and return of the Millennium Falcon, is The Force Awakens just a modern remake of the first Star Wars film?
It's a question that's already been booted around the ballpark by Star Wars fans after they found that the force didn't so much awaken them as sent them into a deep nostalgic slumber. They seemingly awoke in an alternate reality where it was 2015, J.J. Abrams had created the Star Wars universe from scratch, and George Lucas was just a figment of someone else's imagination.
Let's look at the facts, but be warned there are big spoilers on the horizon.
As anyone who has seen The Force Awakens knows, those who don't learn from history are destined to repeat it, and at first glance, Star Wars 7 definitely appears to be stuck in a time-warp that would have us believe it's 1977 all over again.
Like A New Hope, The Force Awakens boasts a droid who has vital information in his possession; a Jedi who's turned to the dark side, wears a mask, speaks in a funny voice, and serves a disfigured hologram; a lonely desert dweller, who's naturally gifted with the force and dreams of adventure; an old Jedi master, who's become a solitary recluse; a cheeky and charismatic pilot; a son who ends up killing his father; and a Death Star thing with bells on it, which the rebel forces have to destroy in the time-honored fashion.
In short, it's Star Wars on steroids, and it's Star Wars as we all know and love it, with big, bold themes, dazzling effects, snappy one-liners, and none of the political posturing and pantomime characters that ruined the prequels.
The Force Awakens has already smashed box office records and earned universal acclaim, but already there are whispers in the shadows from malcontents who are snarling that the mass praise is going to die down quickly when people realize that by playing it incredibly safe and not wanting the same sort of critical mauling which greeted The Phantom Menace, J.J. Abrams and Disney have cynically produced near enough the same movie we fell in love with nearly 40 years ago.
Yet, just think about that iconic first Star Wars movie for a second. Its story of innocence corrupted, good against evil, rebels against an empire, and destiny unfolding was by no means unique or original. The tales that Star Wars tells are the same stories that every human culture across the globe has related to and found a deep significance in for centuries. It's precisely that, and not special effects or characters with silly faces and even sillier names that resonate with movie audiences so deeply and so universally.
Each generation needs its spin on the same old myths, and each generation has its different take on the old tales. The Force Awakens is just Star Wars for the new generation, and what's more, it adds a richer layer of meaning and depth to those of us who grew up with the originals and serves as a timely reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Seeing characters we've carried with us since childhood, such as Han Solo and Chewbacca back in action, a little older, a little more frayed around the edges, and with a whole lifetime of living they've accumulated off screen when we weren't looking, is well worth the wait.
If the naysayers were just to get off their high horse, kick back, and allow The Force Awakens to take them on a ride into a galaxy far far away, they'd see Star Wars for what it was, is, and will always be: a slice of pure magic best served with popcorn.
[Image via Lucasfilm]