Reading: The ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Edition
It’s been two weeks since Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released into theatres. Not surprisingly, a large number of articles and thinkpieces have been published concerning the new Star Wars film, as well as the Star Wars franchise in general. So, for this edition of “Reading,” I’ve compiled some of my favorites. Needless to say, some of these pieces contain spoilers — but if you haven’t seen The Force Awakens by now, you really only have yourself to blame.
For what it’s worth, I saw the film for a second time earlier this week, and still enjoyed it. However, it’s weaknesses were a bit more glaring. There were several key scenes that were clearly there because the film needed to achieve some sort of emotional beat, or build a connection to the Original Trilogy, but that don’t make much sense within the actual context of The Force Awakens. Such moments were more irksome this time around, but I still stand, by and large, by my original review.
First off, Jeffrey Overstreet gets a gold Death Star for the most unique review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens I’ve read. (It helps that he actually got Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in the flesh, sort of, to discuss the film). His review delves into what made Star Wars resonate so much with audiences in the first place, and discusses what it needs to do to resonate for a new generation of fans.
However, Steven D. Greydanus — who gave The Force Awakens a “B” in his review — wonders if the myth and magic of Star Wars is over. “The ‘Star Wars’ franchise will go on to nine episodes, or twelve, or however many Disney feels like making, and of course there will be more cartoons, novels and other expanded world-building. It may be, though, that the mythic power of the original trilogy will never be touched — that henceforth ‘Star Wars’ will merely be nostalgic space opera, and ‘The Force Awakens’ and its sequels, however entertaining, will never be more than an unnecessary afterthought.”
Elsewhere, Greydanus discusses Star Wars’ relationship to ancient Gnosticism. “Seen as a whole, the original trilogy is the story of how evil is undone, neither by heroic violence, mystical power, nor Buddhist detachment, but by love: specifically, by filial piety, paternal attachment and moral conversion.”
While it’s easy to discuss some of the narrative problems in The Force Awakens — and yes, there are narrative problems — let’s remember that it’s the first film in a brand new trilogy. So it’s worth giving J.J. Abrams et al. the benefit of the doubt that some things will eventually be answered. So here’s a list of “43 Questions We Desperately Want Answered After Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Of course, there are plenty of fan theories circulating around, especially with regards to Rey, the film’s best new character. I particularly like this one, which posits that Rey is actually a Kenobi, not a Skywalker. “All that being said, think about how much more poignant Episode 7’s final scene of Rey handing Luke his own lightsaber becomes if it’s again a Kenobi reuniting a Skywalker with their weapon, compelling them back to the fight.” I doubt this is the direction Rey’s story will take, but it’s cool to think about, no?
Meanwhile, Caleb Hutchins gets deep, positing that The Force Awakens is an allegory for the generational experience of millennials — and that spells big things for the next films. “I know that JJ Abrams has been thinking about Star Wars for a very, very long time. He knows what he’s doing. I believe that the similarities laid out in The Force Awakens were put in place so that they can be subverted in the following film.”
Finally, not everybody is happy with the new film, and one of the chiefs critic has been Mr. Star Wars himself, George Lucas, who recently said that selling Star Wars to Disney was like selling his children to “white slavers.” (He later apologized for those comments.)