by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief
I was born in 1979, too young to see A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back in the theater. But Star Wars had an indelible impression on my childhood. I can literally connect the dots with the Star Wars memories from my earliest years. Perhaps my earliest memory is playing with a lone Obi-Wan Star Wars figure alone in my bedroom. I couldn’t have been more than three at the time. I have no idea where that figure came from. I was fortunate enough to see Return of the Jedi in the theater on its original release in 1983. By then my parents, like many others, had lined George Lucas’ pockets with quite a few dollars trying to satiate my need for as much Star Wars stuff as possible. I vividly remember my mom bringing home a bulky plastic “The Force” red lightsaber. They didn’t resemble the lightsabers from the film but they made a surprisingly accurate sound when swung. I complained that I wanted a green one and she told me it was the only one not dinged up from kids dueling in the store. I remember my cousin, who lived next door, turning five and being jealous that my parents got him a Han Solo blaster that I didn’t have (I never did get one). I can recall another cousin being a jerk about all the Star Wars figures he had that I didn’t and my dad and grandfather taking me to the store and asking me which ones he didn’t have and loading the shopping cart up so he couldn’t make me feel bad again. When I was seven we were at a cookout with someone my dad worked with who had a kid that had outgrown his toys and loaded me up with boxes of figures, a Darth Vader action figure case along with a ton of vehicles. It’s weird how many of those Star Wars moments stick out in my head
Indie Revolver has had a similar journey, coming of age with its own Star Wars milestones. Chances are, if you’re reading this or any of the stuff on the site it’s because of one of the exclusives we ran for The Force Awakens, maybe it was that first day we posted the first Stormtrooper images, the concept art for Han Solo, and the first art depicting an early cyborg version of Kylo Ren. Or maybe you found us with our reveal of a Chrome Trooper, or the art depicting the lightsaber duel with the falcon overhead, or the alternate version of Kylo. Then there was the early concept art of Maz Kanata and Supreme Leader Snoke, etc, etc, etc. The truth is, I love Star Wars and was so excited to have the opportunity to share and discuss pieces that were coming from the sequel to Return of the Jedi! With each new piece of art or plot point that I heard, the more I came to realize that J.J.’s approach was exactly what I’d hoped it would be. Not only was he
Now here I am, trying to figure out what to say about J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens. The intention is to tread lightly and not reveal any spoilers. Trust me, I want you to see this thing and then we can dissect the shit out of it. Until everyone has that opportunity though, I’ll speak in vague generalities as best I can.
The film hits the ground running as soon as it opens and doesn’t stop to take a breath until that last shot. The themes are universal as well as powerful, destiny, fate and family. They’re all dealt with here and in very interesting ways.
What you really want to know is if the film is actually good?
Yeah, it is.
Pretty fucking great, actually.
Sitting there in that dark theater, my attention locked on the screen, out of nowhere the magnitude of the situation struck me. I realized that I was sitting in a theater watching the sequel to Return of the Jedi, a film I watched at least a hundred times as a kid (my grandfather paid a hundred dollars back before sell-through when only video stores usually paid that much. And I watched it a LOT). In that moment I thought about how this was something I’d been waiting to see since I was four years old and now it was happening right in front of my eyes. Then I teared up. I did. Just for a moment. I let myself be taken out of the film for just a moment to reflect on how big a deal this was for me. And then I let the film take me back in again.
Is it possible that our nostalgia or gratitude for having Star Wars back in our lives will skew the way we really feel about the film like it skewed our view of Episode I? I vividly remember a theater of people cheering at the end of that opening night screening only to have the spell wear off when we realized how bad that film was. We were all just SO excited to have Star Wars back that we cheered for The Phantom Menace. That actually happened. And that film was terrible.
Thankfully, The Force Awakens does not resemble anything from the Prequel Trilogy in any way, shape or form. J.J. and his trusted crew have given us a worthy successor to our beloved Original Trilogy, with a masterful mix of humor, heart and horror that should satisfy even the most skeptical of fans. The Force Awakens deserves to stand shoulder to shoulder with the films in the Original Trilogy. This is a Star Wars film carefully crafted by so many artists who not only understand, but also LOVE Star Wars. The Force Awakens delivers in all the ways I needed it to. I’m reasonably certain you’ll agree with me.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are the standouts of the new cast as Jakku scavenger, Rey and the evil Kylo Ren. Oscar Isaac’s hotshot pilot Poe Dameron and John Boyega’s AWOL stormtrooper Finn are also noteworthy. The new cast members are all great, including new droid BB-8.
Most importantly, Abrams has not only created one thrilling cinematic rollercoaster ride, he and screenwriter Larence Kasdan have set up plenty of plot points that can be mined further in the next chapters. I’m intrigued to see where Rian Johnson takes these characters in Episode VIII.
If you weren’t already aware, The Force Awakens opens Thursday 12/17.
Thank you for taking this journey with us. It’s been one helluva ride. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!