'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Really Bummed Out My Inner Child

Star Wars premiere Harrison FordI can’t remember the last time I was more excited to see a movie. But as I left the theater last Sunday night, after watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens with my mom, my husband, our daughter, and three of our good friends … I just felt sad. Why would they DO THAT?

SPOILERS AHEAD…

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Yes, Episode VII has a lot going for it. I loved the new characters of Rey and Finn. Absolutely loved them. I completely take my hat off to J.J. Abrams in that regard, and you can read my love letter to Rey if you want to know why.

The visual effects were, obviously, incredible – but isn't that just kind of expected these days? Cinematography and amazing effects do not a substitute for a great, original story make...

[[SPOILER ALERT]]

The film does a great job balancing screen time of our new heroes with our much-loved favorites from the original trilogy. I lit up with glee when we spotted the Millennium Falcon; when Han and Chewbacca came striding onto the scene, I actually cheered. Princess Leia and Han embracing -- again, after all these years -- gave me that same schoolgirl thrill I felt when they finally kissed in Empire Strikes Back.

But … but …

What did they do to my characters, whom I’ve loved so much, since I can remember? (Literally: Star Wars came out when I was a year old; Empire Strikes Back was the first movie I saw in a theater.) Why set the movie 30 years into the future, if we’re going to start back from the beginning again? We went through so much with Han, Luke, and Leia -- not to mention Chewy, Yoda, Obi-Wan, and so many others -- in those first three brilliant movies. Over the span of six years, with each episode, we cheered them on as they fought to overcome the Galactic Empire; to restore balance to the Force; to battle, and to rise above, their own inner demons. We destroyed the Death Star, for goodness’ sake!

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All that work, all their triumphs and sacrifices … was it all for nothing? In the Force Awakens, the galaxy seems right back where we started in 1977. The entire film is an exercise in rehashing all the same old ground -- same premise, same plot, with some different characters, but going through the exact same motions. The big giant evil Empire-like "new order," the horrible planet-destroying weapon, the creepy-as-f*ck British captain-guy leading a host of Nazi-esque stormtoopers in the name of an even creepier-as-f*ck Emperor / Supreme Being character … um… haven’t we heard this before somewhere?

Why are there no more Jedi? Why is the Force "awakening"? Why did it go back to sleep? WHAT ABOUT YODA AND THE SWAMP? BEN DIED!! WAS THAT ALL FOR NOTHING?! There’s still a "Resistance" … thirty years later?

And the worst moment, of course. When Kylo Ren murders his father. Kylo Ren, about whom we know practically nothing, brutally dispatching one of the most beloved movie characters of all time. In a scene that wasn’t even NEW.

I sat there dumbstruck -- sickened. We hardly knew this Kylo person, and so that moment had none of the deep meaning it might have, had his character -- and his relationship with his father and mother -- been better developed. Did Han know exactly what was about to happen? Did he sacrifice himself? Are we supposed to think that? Are we supposed to think anything other than … WTF just happened?!

Yeah, yeah, I know: Harrison Ford supposedly has wanted to kill off Han Solo since Return of the Jedi. I get it. And that could have been a great plot point … if we knew Kylo well enough to have any feeling for what he was going through, what he was thinking as he plunged a lightsaber into one of the most important and loved pop cultural figures ever.

The entire move felt to me like a remake. Not a new episode, but a remake. Like J.J. Abrams wanted to do the whole thing over again, but his way. Instead of moving the story forward, he found a way to go back in time and make everything that happened before somehow meaningless. He pandered just enough to fellow original Star Wars fans, with some great scenes that brought to mind our favorite moments from the good old days. And I was right there with him -- laughing at the "Just use the force" jokes -- until I realized that this movie was essentially an erasure, and a redo.

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And he didn’t even give us some time with Chewey to grieve the loss of a beautiful friendship.

"I feel like a little piece of my childhood just died," said my friend as we walked out of the theater.

So do I.

 

Image via Dave Bedrosian/Geisler-Fotopress/dpa/Corbis

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