I have seen the future of Star Wars, and I am relieved to discover that it closely resembles the past. By emulating the look and feel of the original 1977 George Lucas megamovie, director J.J. Abrams has delivered comfort food for a starving (and eager) audience. Is it revolutionary or life-altering? No. Is it enjoyable? Yes…and that’s what matters most.
The events of this story (by Abrams, Michael Arndt, and series veteran Lawrence Kasdan) take place some thirty years after the events of Return of the Jedi. That enables Abrams to bring back Han Solo, Princess (now General) Leia, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, C-3PO, and Chewbacca, who are most welcome and who, it must be said, have grown older gracefully. At the screening I attended, even familiar props and settings inspired bursts of applause.
As for the new characters, Daisy Ridley is a standout as the resourceful scavenger Rey, an instantly likable, take-charge character who becomes a de facto heroine. John Boyega’s character—a Storm Trooper-turned-resistance fighter—isn’t fleshed out quite yet, and an underutilized Oscar Isaac seems primed to step into Han Solo’s shoes, since he adopts that iconic character’s cocky, wiseguy attitude.
But this film’s trump card is the original Han Solo, Harrison Ford. He effortlessly slips back into the role that made him famous and dominates the screen every time he turns up. He is the very personification of a movie star, fully engaged yet still able to toss off a barbed line of dialogue with the greatest of ease. Some of his swagger is tempered by wistfulness after all these years, especially when he sees Leia for the first time.
The actor’s commitment to this character (and our history with him) makes up for a somewhat routine storyline. There are the requisite chase scenes and battles, and an offbeat villain in the person of Adam Driver, but the movie has a Teflon quality to it: nothing much sticks with me except the delight of seeing Ford back in action. I also enjoyed the newest droid on the block, the cute, globular BB-8, and the Yoda-like Maz Kanata (enacted and voiced by Lupita Nyong’o).
But it’s the underlying mythology that George Lucas created almost forty years ago that propels this new installment, not the visual effects or rejuvenation in the casting. The presence of John Williams’ majestic score is a tangible reminder of what captured the world’s imagination in 1977. Will this Star Wars, with its hints of changes to come, blaze a path for a new generation of fans, or will the momentum of the original carry this reboot to its pre-sold fans around the world? It will be interesting to see as the new saga unfolds.
Incidentally, I saw the movie in 3-D (not in IMAX) and while it was fun I don’t know if it added significantly to my enjoyment of the picture.