In 1977, Star Wars brought to the cinema screen an epic unlike anything seen before. From the vast wastelands of Tatooine to the dark foreboding corridors of the Death Star, the grand sets and awe-inspiring space battles became the movie to which a generation compared all others. When the words, "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away", first appeared in the screen, this wide-eyed youngster was lost in astonishment. I could be mistaken, but I think that seeing the original Star Wars may have been my first trip to the cinema in my life. Full-length cartoon films were not as prevalent back then as they are now. George Lucas had created a cinematic spectacle unlike any that had been seen before, ushering in a new era where science fiction became a mainstream genre in the cinema.
The follow-up films in the original trilogy continued the trend, both becoming beloved by fans almost as much as the original. All three spawning a billion dollar industry of toys, books, and comics the likes of which had never been seen before. Not everything has been all rosy in the Star Wars universe. Who can forget (no matter how much we try) the fiasco that was the Star Wars Christmas Special (a television program so bad that it has never been released on VHS or DVD)? The three prequel films, although highly anticipated, were disappointments for many fans because their overuse of CG effects and its introduction of midichlorians and Jar Jar Binks to the expanded Star Wars universe. As you can imagine, there was a lot of anticipation, as well as anxiety, among fans about what Disney and J.J. Abrams would do with the new film, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The new film, in a word, was breathtaking. It rekindled that boyhood wonder from 1977. The sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat sense of exhilaration has returned to the Star Wars films. Each new revelation in the film brings with it a gasp from the audience, harkening back to The Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader reveals that he is Luke's father. Although some have aged better than others, the characters from the original series return, not only to "pass the torch" onto the next generation, but to also bring Star Wars back to its roots (something that was missing from the three prequel films).
With tight direction, J.J. Abrams kept the narrative moving, fast and furious, and without overusing his trademarked lens flares. It was also nice to see that he went to great lengths to try and maintain a healthy balance between CG effects and live sets. It again harkens back to a simpler time when filmmakers actually built sets instead of just standing the actors up in front of a green screen. Stars Wars: The Force Awakens was riddled with references to the original series, which will enthrall fans everywhere. And, without giving away the ending, I will say that, no matter how shocking it may be the fans, I don’t think it could have happened any other way.
Stars Wars: The Force Awakens stands as, not only a tribute to original series, but also serves as a baton for handing the Star Wars universe off to a new host of characters, and millions of new fans. It holds within its power to reawaken those wide-eyed youngsters who first saw Star Wars in 1977. It was brilliantly done, and stands among the best films that I have ever seen.