Journey to The Last Jedi: Revisiting The Force Awakens

In just over 30 days, Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be unleashed on the world. The eighth episode in the Skywalker saga is sure to break records, net Disney an obscene amount of money and turn the world on its axis with a wave of nerdy insanity that only the largest multimedia franchise ever could provide. The Last Jedi is the second chapter in the sequel trilogy that started with 2015’s The Force Awakens, so it is only right that I rewatched JJ Abrams’ franchise resurrecting mega hit to prepare for the madness on the horizon.

Having already reviewed this movie before, it is not a good exercise in time management to go through all of that again. I still loved this movie when rewatching. It is exactly what Disney, Lucasfilm and JJ Abrams had to put out. By leaning into A New Hope, and the original trilogy as a whole, they washed away the bad taste the ponderous prequels had left in many people’s mouths.

You needed a light, fast-paced, fun adventure to get people smiling and remembering what they love about Star Wars. Does it play on nostalgia? Of course, but the entire Star Wars franchise is one big nostalgia trip. People wanted to see the prequels because of the nostalgia for the originals. When you have a 40-year-old franchise, anybody who has had an interest in Star Wars previously only cares about another movie because of nostalgia.

This movie got me so hyped for Rey’s journey I want to flip over furniture and lift my girlfriend up over my head like Simba every time a commercial for The Last Jedi comes on

As somebody who really did not like the prequels, The Force Awakens was just what the doctor ordered. It made me feel like a kid again. It was a big, fun, sweeping adventure that pulls the audience across so many worlds and new environments. Sure, the elements seem familiar, and that’s why it is so easy to digest and get excited for a whole trilogy based on these cool new characters.

Daisy Ridley’s Rey is phenomenal. It had to be daunting; she was given the unenviable task of becoming the new face for possibly the biggest cultural phenomenon ever. I don’t have any eloquent way of phrasing this beyond saying she is really good in this movie. Rey is strong, determined and a total badass. For somebody who had never been in a major motion picture, Ridley carries herself like a pro and you latch onto her character and journey right away. At the time of release, I thought it was close between Kylo Ren and Rey in terms of who the best new character is. Now, I’m totally confident in saying it is Rey. That moment when she reaches out with the Force to summon the lightsaber sent me into a state of nerdy shock in 2015, and still does today.

John Boyega’s Finn has amazing chemistry with everybody he interacts with. He’s charming and funny. He wants so badly to be a hero, and while wrestling with uncertainty about his place it’s his loyalty to Rey that helps him rise. I love their first meeting and the subsequent chase by the Stormtroopers. Finn keeps grabbing Rey’s hand and she yells at him that she can take care of herself. Then when they are leveled from an explosion and he’s knocked out, Rey wakes Finn up only for Finn to shoot into Hero Mode and ask if she’s alright. Her look of confusion makes it.

Poe Dameron meeting his buddy for the first time!

Adam Driver, while weird looking, is pretty great as that emo little shit Kylo Ren. What I don’t get is fans talking about looking forward to his redemption over the course of the trilogy. This asshole killed Han Solo, his own father and possibly the most universally beloved character in all of Star Wars. I don’t give a shit about his redemption. He’s a good villain, though. I love that moment when he intercepts Finn and Rey in the woods, bleeding from the side and creepily sweaty, to tell them, “We’re not done yet.” You know it is on then.

Related to that, this movie has a perfect example of Professional Wrestling Booking 101. You make somebody look strong in wrestling by having them overcome somebody else who is legit. For example, if Braun Strowman runs through everybody in his path and destroys everything, you’re like, “Damn, this is a guy you don’t mess with.” You do that so when somebody finally beats them, it means something. The guy who just won is clearly a force.

Chewbacca’s bowcaster is the Braun Strowman of weapons in The Force Awakens. Han Solo borrows it on multiple occasions, and the strength of its laser blast sends foes flying through the air with devastating force. Nobody can take that kind of force. When Chewie shoots Kylo Ren with it, only for Ren to drop to a knee then keep on trucking and proceed to have a whole lightsaber battle, you realize this guy is a different breed.

This dude just got shot and decides to punch the wound to show how little it hurt

I loved watching this movie again, and still get every bit as excited by the ending as I did the first time. But I’ve noticed on social media that opinions for The Force Awakens are not as effusive as they were in 2015. That really bums me out since it made me remember why I love going to the movies, and it made me almost giddy to think that my nephews and my future children will grow up with the same type of fun and exciting Star Wars adventure I had as a kid. Common criticisms are that it’s a copy of the 1977 original, that it’s just all nostalgia and it doesn’t take enough chances.

Sure, having another Death Star is ridiculous. The story did lift from A New Hope, but the prequels all copied the originals as well. George Lucas even said when making the prequels that Star Wars is like poetry and that it all rhymes. Hence the first prequel featuring a Skywalker plucked from obscurity on a desert world because he’s strong in the force. Then he loses his hand in the second one. Qui-Gon Jinn, the older mentor, gets killed in the trilogy’s first part, just like Obi-Wan in the original.

So when Rey gets plucked from obscurity on a desert world, the Force awakens in her and she gets swept up into an adventure with Han Solo, who gets killed, I don’t see how this is any different than your standard Star Wars fare. All of the Star Wars movies revolve around the same themes and tropes. And again, any sequel in a 40-year-old series is going to have to play on nostalgia to stay relevant. That’s just how it works.

“I’ve been standing on this cliff for 30 years waiting for you.”

If JJ Abrams and Co. went in a totally new and different direction here, people would have been upset like, “Why can’t I just have the fun Star Wars of my childhood?” And now people are upset that they get a series similar to the Star Wars of their childhood. That is the world of constant social media complaints we live in. It’s a vicious circle.

The Force Awakens was a lot of fun, and not in that way you say a crappy movie is “fun” to not be so hard on it. It looked beautiful, had some great acting and serves as an excellent jumping off point for a whole new generation.

With The Last Jedi now just about a month away, this rewatch was a nice refresher, and has helped me get adequately pumped to see what happens when Luke Skywalker finally gets to speak.