“The Skywalker Saga”: Can We Please Shut Up About It?

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I was one of the millions that saw the trailer for Ghostbusters: Afterlife yesterday. For the uninitiated, this one is different from the 2016 film, in that it’s actually a sequel to the first two movies. The ones with Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver, etc. The trailer hits you right in the feels. Especially you’ve got a special place in your heart for this story and these characters.

Another story with a special place in my heart? Star Wars. I’m doing my best to go into The Rise of Skywalker with my expectations tempered. But it’s tough, as they’re trying to pull you into the theater by your heartstrings. The footage of Carrie Fisher. Mark Hamill’s voiceover. Rey and Kylo Ren facing off one last time. C-3PO taking “one last look at my friends.” And the proclamation that, once and for all, “The saga will end”…

Pffft. Yeah, okay.

The movie itself actually looks pretty good. Given J.J. Abrams’ involvement, I think we all have reason to be hopeful. But all this “end of the Skywalker Saga” stuff grates on me.

They don’t mean the end of Star Wars, of course. They mean the end of this nine-part story that’s mainly about the Skywalker family. The tragedy of Darth Vader. Luke and Leia’s rebellion against the Empire. And finally, Leia and Han’s son Ben, and his role in the rise of the First Order. Supposedly, we’ve got other Star Wars movies coming down the pipeline. What they’re about is anybody’s guess.

But let me tell you a little something about this “Skywalker Saga,” a term they’ve only just started using in the promotion of this film.

It’s only the end until the next beginning.

See, the Skywalker Saga has actually already ended. Twice. The first time was way back in 1983, in a little movie called Return of the Jedi. Anakin Skywalker was redeemed by his son Luke, and ultimately died in the process. Also, the Rebel Alliance blew up yet another Death Star, leading to the fall of the Empire. Sure feels like an ending to me. Pretty cut and dry.

Only then, they decided to make the prequels. And in 2005, Revenge of the Sith closed the loop between Episode I and Episode XI. We now had six movies chronicling the rise and fall of Darth Vader. Honest to God, if I had a nickel for every ad I saw that said, “The circle is now complete.” But in any event, George Lucas’ magnum opus in space was finally finished!

Until he sold it to Disney in 2012, and they said, “But wait! There’s more!” Three movies later, and we’re at another ending.

Look, I love Star Wars, warts and all. So I’ve got no issue calling this “Skywalker Saga” out for what it is: A sleazy marketing gimmick.

Some die-hards will tell you about George Lucas giving Time a quote about there being plans for nine Star Wars movies. Three trilogies, Luke and the gang coming back in the third one, etc. He said that in 1978, two decades before he decided Star Wars was a six-film saga, and the prequels would be the last Star Wars movies. In a 2005 interview with 60 minutes, he said point blank, “There is no Episode VII.”

Until there was. As the story goes, Lucas was working on another three Star Wars movies before he opted to sell to Disney.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy the sequel trilogy was made, and I’m grateful Star Wars can continue on in the hands of other filmmakers. (Specifically ones that can write actual human dialogue.) But let’s not kid ourselves, folks. Call him brilliant, call him a visionary, call him a genius, call him whatever you want. But George Lucas was making it up as he went along. Just like Disney is making it up as they go along. That’s not even a bad thing, per se. I believe George had vague ideas about what might happen in a sequel trilogy. But there was no grand plan. No nine-film blueprint.

Which means, if these “non-Skywalker” films don’t work out, Disney can once again say, “But wait! There’s more!” Kylo Ren banged some chick on a Star Destroyer, and has a kid he never knew about! Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…Damian Skywalker! (Or would it be Damian Solo?) Learn all about him in Episodes X, XI, and XII!

Hey Disney? We love ya. But most of us have been through this before. We understand Star Wars movies come three to a pack. You don’t have to beat us over the head with this Skywalker Saga stuff. You’re being pretty presumptuous about the whole thing. Star Wars doesn’t need to be chained to this one messed up family that chops each other’s limbs off. But if somebody has a good idea for a next-gen “Skywalker” story down the line, why not go for it? Why write yourself into a corner?

Back on the subject of magazine interviews, Esquire recently asked Billy Dee Williams about the possibility of playing Lando Calrissian again someday. Williams replied…

[The Rise of Skywalker] is a conclusion —certainly it depends on how much money is generated. That’s when they determine where’s the conclusion. … The one thing about show business, you can resurrect anything.”

You can resurrect anything. Even a war against a space dictatorship that spans entire galaxies, and has a bunch of people in robes hitting each other with laser swords.

Smart man, that Billy Dee.

Follow Primary Ignition on Twitter, or email Rob at primaryignition@yahoo.com.

Weekly Comic 100s: Star Wars Stuff, Batman/Superman,

*”Weekly Comic 100s” keeps it nice and simple. Comic book reviews in 100 words or less. Nothing too in-depth here. Just straight, concise, and to the point.***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

Tacked an extra one down on the end here. The most recent issue of Superman. But of course, in the spirit of the Rise of Skywalker hype, we begin with Allegiance

TITLE: Star Wars: Allegiance #3
AUTHOR: Ethan Sacks
ARTISTS:
Luke Ross, Lee Loughridge (Colorist), Clayton Cowles (Letterer). Cover by Marco Checchetto.
RELEASED:
October 23, 2019

Leia, Rey, and some of the Resistance are still on Mon Cala in this issue. Because it’s largely an underwater planet, Leia has to wear the equivalent of a scuba suit. Imagining an older Carrie Fisher in an outfit like that is…weird.

The “B story” in Allegiance has been about Finn, Poe, and BB-8 stealing weapons for the Resistance. Sacks writes their chemistry very well. Well enough, in fact, that I felt a pang of sadness that they didn’t end up being romantically involved. Yeah, I was on that team.

No Kylo Ren in this issue. Bummer.

TITLE: Star Wars #73
AUTHOR: Greg Pak
ARTISTS: Phil Noto, Clayton Cowles (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 16, 2019

This volume of Star Wars is going out strong as we head toward its issue #75 finale. Greg Pak knows how to weave the multi-strand rip-roaring adventure, as all of our main heroes fight for their lives.

But for yours truly, the star of this “Rebels and Rogues” storyline has been Phil Noto. He’s been one of my favorite Star Wars artists dating back to the build-up to The Force Awakens. His “sketchy” style is a lot of fun, and he nails all the likenesses. As far as I’m concerned, he’s welcome in this galaxy any time.

TITLE: Batman/Superman #3
AUTHOR: Joshua Williamson
ARTISTS: David Marquez, Alejandro Sanchez (Colorist), John J. Hill (Letterer)
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

Unlike many, I’m not really into the Batman Who Laughs, or much of the Metal stuff. But the premise of that character “infecting” six characters across the DCU, and our two heroes having to solve the mystery of who they are was enough to draw me in.

But the way Williamson has executed it thus far, it’s not so much a mystery as it is them happening upon each victim. It’s still a cool idea. I just wish they’d dig a little deeper into it. On the upside, it’s great to see Marquez drawing the World’s Finest.

TITLE: Action Comics #1016
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS: Szymon Kudranski, Brad Anderson (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Jamal Campbell.
RELEASED: October 23, 2019

I absolutely adore the framing device for this issue. A Daily Planet reporter does man-on-the-street interviews to recap a fight between Superman and the Red Cloud. Bendis is as good as almost anyone at playing up the journalism element in Superman’s world.

A Szymon Kudranski comic that’s this colorful takes some getting used to. There’s nothing wrong with it. But his M.O. is typically on the dark and gritty side. Type his name into Google Images. You’ll see what I mean.

TITLE: Superman #16
AUTHOR: Brian Michael Bendis
ARTISTS:
David LaFuente, Paul Mounts (Colorist), Dave Sharpe (Letterer). Cover by Ivan Reis.
RELEASED:
October 9, 2019

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Superman look quite so…blocky. I know LaFuente’s style is more on the cartoonish side, and generally I like what he turns in. But the Superman we see here looks more like a Superman action figure than the Man of Steel himself.

This issue gives us the inevitable reunion between Superboy and Robin after Jon Kent’s trip into space, which aged him a few years older than Damian. Bendis gives us what you’d hope to see here. The initial awkwardness, some hijinks and a feel-good exit. A strong issue, blockiness notwithstanding.

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Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi: “…About His Mother.”

***Lots of people have lots of opinions about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. You have one. I have one. But you know whose opinion I want to hear? Rian Johnson’s. He wrote it. He directed it. Now let’s hear what he has to say about it. That’s what this space is for. This is “Rian Johnson on The Last Jedi.“***

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

The Scene: During the film’s opening sequence, General Hux talks to Poe Dameron via comm link. Dameron makes an antagonistic allusion to Hux’s mother.

Rian Johnson Says (Via The Last Jedi Commentary Track): “I held on to this. This was something where I felt like…with the heaviness of it being the middle chapter, and I knew people were going to come in with expectations of all the grand opera of it. And I really wanted this movie to be fun. I love the tone that J.J. [Abrams], Michael [Arndt], and Larry [Kasdan] set with The Force Awakens. And the tone of the original films has a spirit of fun to it. I felt like we had to, at the very beginning, kind of break the ice and say we’re going to have fun here. We’re going to try some fun stuff, and it’s going to be okay to laugh at this movie. So we kind of start it with a little Monty Python sketch.”

I Say: He’s not wrong about the original movies having that fun spirit to them. Just a few minutes into the original movie, Threepio and Artoo comedically rush through a barrage of blaster fire. So we can’t say that humor hasn’t been part of the franchise’s DNA from the get-go. Frankly, a lot of The Last Jedi‘s jokes landed with me. Still, I wonder if given the chance to go back and chance things, Rian Johnson wouldn’t take that “…about his mother” line out.

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Weekly Comic Haul, May 23, 2018: Detective Comics, Star Wars, Delta 13

By Rob Siebert
Fanboy Wonder

I’m Rob, and these are the comics I spent my hard-earned money on this week…

Detective Comics #981
James Tynion IV’s run ends with this issue. As a longtime fan of characters like Tim Drake, Stephanie Brown, Jean Paul Valley, and Cassandra Cain, I’m so proud of what he was able to do on this book. There’s a reason he’s my favorite modern-day Batman writer. If you want to dive into this series, don’t skip on anything. Go all the way back to Rise of the Batmen.

Justice League: No Justice #3
So in last week’s issue, we learned that the heroes “from the main four teams” that aren’t in these makeshift groups are being held in stasis by Brainiac. That’s his fail-safe, apparently. And somehow the only hero of any merit left is Green Arrow. A bit convenient, wouldn’t you say? It does what it’s designed to do, which is explain why no other heroes are around to help. But still.

Star Wars #46
As you’ll see, this was a big Star Wars week for yours truly. I’m still ready for this Mon Cala story to be over. And for someone other than Salvador Larroca to be drawing it. But I’m obviously still forking money down for it. So in the end, they win.

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #27
The opening scene in this book is downright touching. Expect to see it in Panels of Awesomeness soon. I don’t want to give away much. But it takes place shortly after The Last Jedi, and involves Leia and Chewie.

Star Wars: Darth Vader #16
This one is a few weeks old, but a buddy of mine has been on me to catch up on Vader. He wasn’t wrong. This one also takes place on Mon Cala, but it occurs shortly after Revenge of the Sith. It’s a little bit slow at certain points. But Charles Soule and Giuseppe Camuncoli know how to deliver the action. If you’re a Star Wars fan, it’s worth the read.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Urban Legends #1
This series is actually a reprint of the TMNT stuff Image published in the late ’90s. I’ve always been curious about it, mostly because of the big changes they made to the status quo (i.e. Donatello becoming part-robot). But I haven’t had the chance to read it until now. All I’ll say is, you can definitely tell this is a ’90s Image book. I’m not sure if I’ll keep picking it up. But this one certainly entertained me.

Delta 13 #1
I hadn’t even heard about this series. But Steve Niles’ name piqued my interest. After reading the first issue, it seems like there might be something good here. I was hoping for a bit more of a hook. But it’s officially on my radar.

Babyteeth #4
I ordered this issue from my local comics shop (Shout out to Rockhead’s Comics and Games in Kenosha). Realistically, I could have bought the trade. Or worse, pirated it online. But I wanted to read it issue by issue. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.

Email Rob at PrimaryIgnition@yahoo.com, or follow Primary Ignition on Twitter.

A Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review – The Burden of Expectations

TITLE: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 152 min
RELEASED: December 15, 2017

***WARNING: Spoilers lay ahead.***

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I had to sleep on this one. That’s partially why I waited a week before releasing my review. When I came out of The Last Jedi, I wasn’t sure what to think. That wasn’t the reaction I expected. When I walked out of The Force Awakens, I knew I loved it. When I left Rogue One, I knew I hated it. This one was in a weird “What did I just see?” zone.

In hindsight, the mountains of advance praise heaped on The Last Jedi harmed it in a way few seemed to anticipate. Not just praise from critics mind you, but from Disney themselves when they put director Rian Johnson in charge of the next Star Wars trilogy. That’s a hell of an endorsement. The biggest entertainment company in the world put this guy in the driver’s seat for the biggest movie franchise in the world. All signs pointed to: “Rian Johnson is great! The Last Jedi is going to be amazing and perfect in every way!” What else were we supposed to think?

Sometimes hype hinders. Just ask George Lucas. He learned that the hard way with a little movie called The Phantom Menace.

That’s actually an apt comparison, as The Last Jedi could be the most divisive Star Wars story since The Phantom Menace. Obviously, a portion of the adult Star Wars fanbase has been perpetually butthurt since before butthurt was even a thing. But even the even-tempered and reasonable among us have taken issue with the film.

So allow me to serve as a voice of the middle-ground. A life-long Star Wars buff who isn’t among those that creates petitions to make certain movies non-canon. For the sake of organization and simplicity, let’s make this a simple pro/con list…

Pro: Rey’s parentage
The Force Awakens left us with a lot of questions about Rey’s parents. There were plenty of candidates. Was she Han and Leia’s daughter? Was she Luke’s daughter? Was she somehow Ob-Wan’s daughter? Could she be Snoke’s daughter?

As it turns out, she’s nobody’s daughter. Nobody we know, anyway. In The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren (Or are we officially calling him Ben Solo now?) reveals that Rey is the child of junkers from Jakku who sold her off for “drinking money.” They’re almost trolling us with that one. The franchise with the most famous family revelation in cinematic history sets up another one, then gives us an anti-reveal.

But here’s the thing: It’s the right call. Not making Rey a descendent of Luke, Leia, or someone from the original trilogy gives her a refreshing independance. It makes her a self-made hero. I can also appreciate them not repeating the “I am your father” beat again.

Con: Snoke’s identity
Snoke was every bit the subject of speculation that Rey was, if not more. Who was this mysterious Force-wielder that taught Ben Solo the ways of the Dark Side? Why was his face so messed up? Was he even human? Was he the infamous Darth Plagueis?

The truth of Rey’s parentage may not have satisfied everybody, but at least we got an answer. With Snoke we got nothing. Nothing. Ben turns on him halfway through the movie, ultimately taking his spot at the top of the First Order food chain. While killing him off isn’t necessarily an issue, not addressing who he is, even if it’s just another non-reveal, is the movie’s biggest letdown.

You can make the argument we knew next to nothing about Palpatine in Empire and Jedi. Hell, they never even said his name. He was just the Emperor. But they then proceeded to make three movies chronicling his rise to power. Snoke’s identity is also wrapped up in the backstory of the First Order, of which we know so little.

I suppose there’s a chance we’ll learn a little more about who this guy was in Episode IX. But this was their big opportunity to explore him, and they missed it. That’s astounding. It’s not as if they didn’t know we were curious…

Pro: Mark Hamill as grumpy Luke.
There’s naturally a warm and fuzzy nostalgic quality to seeing Mark Hamill come back to Luke Skywalker. But he’s also perennially underrated as an actor. So to see him in a major motion picture again is very satisfying. He more than holds up his end of the bargain.

People have had mixed emotions about what they’ve done with Luke in these new movies. The execution hasn’t been perfect. But the idea itself isn’t bad. The events of Return of the Jedi happened more than 30 years ago. A hell of a lot can happen in three decades. People change. Luke has changed. I like that none of us were expecting grumpy old Luke Skywalker. It opened some interesting doors, and allowed Mark Hamill to turn in a different, more nuanced performance than he otherwise might have.

Con: Overstuffing the plot
The Last Jedi is so bloated that it may be the first Star Wars movie that overstays its welcome. It struggles to give both Finn and Poe Dameron something to do. As Rey, Finn, and Poe are supposed to have essentially the same level of importance, they all have their own plot threads. This leaves the story overinflated and less focused. As much as I like Oscar Isaac as Poe, he’s the one who needed to be scaled back.

While Finn and his new ally Rose are off on their big mission to a space casino, Leia is incapacitated. So Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) is put in charge of the Resistance. When Poe doesn’t like her more reserved and passive strategy, he stages a mutiny. We later learn Holdo is trying to be discreet while moving the Resistance to an old Rebel base on the planet Crait. She ends up sacrificing herself to buy them time.

While I enjoyed Laura Dern’s presence in the film, this whole subplot was unnecessary. I understand the lesson Poe is supposed to learn about seeing the bigger picture. But the movie already has so much going on, and they could have saved time by simply having Poe and Holdo work together in Leia’s absence. Then, inspired by her sacrifice, he can take charge and lead the Resistance forward into a new era.

Pro: New Planets
The planets in both The Force Awakens and Rogue One left something to be desired. None were particularly memorable other than Jakku, which is essentially the same world as Tatooine.

Crait isn’t a particularly interesting setting, at least not that we know of. But it does make for a unique visual during our climactic battle. You’ve got a thick layer of salt on the surface, with the red mineral content underneath. It’s a new kind of environment. That’s not an easy thing to give us after eight Star Wars movies.

The casino city of Canto Bight, which Finn and Rose travel to, is memorable as well. It doesn’t blow you away in terms of creatures or visual spectacle. But the novelty of basically seeing Star Wars characters go to Vegas is amusing.

Con: The Era
Here’s a little something Disney doesn’t want you to realize: We’re never going to get another universally beloved Star Wars movie ever again. Hell, we haven’t had once since The Empire Strikes Back, and even that’s debatable in some circles. The phrase “everyone’s a critic” has never been more true than it is in 2017. The advent of the internet, blogs, YouTube shows and the like have allowed for pop culture to be analyzed and re-analyzed to the point of absurdity. (And yes, I am indeed saying that on my own blog.) You can’t find something more heavily ingrained in our pop culture than Star Wars.

You also can’t find a more opinionated fandom. These movies and this universe connect with people on such a personal level. So something that’s perceived as wrong or harmful can spark a tidal wave of emotion. The prequels taught a generation of geeks (myself included) how to pick a movie apart and spit it back at its creators. We love Star Wars, but we are forever on guard from being burned again. As such, any and all future Star Wars films will be under a microscope as long as fans can access the internet. 

The Bottom Line
The Last Jedi does not live up to its hype. But that hype was so ridiculous that you almost can’t fault it for that.

Almost.

There’s a lot to like in this movie, and I appreciate that they surprised us, and are trying to avoid doing the original trilogy over again. But the plain and simple truth is that they tried to do too much with too many characters. As such, the movie’s focus is spread too thin. It almost feels like they shot their wad, and won’t have anything left for Episode IX. We’ll find out in two years, when thankfully JJ Abrams will be back in the director’s chair.

Help us, JJ. You’re are only hope… (No pressure.)

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A Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5 Review – Droid Martial Arts

Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5, 2016, coverTITLE: Star Wars: Poe Dameron #5
AUTHOR: Charles Soule
PENCILLER: Phil Noto
PUBLISHER: Marvel
PRICE: $3.99
RELEASED: August 17, 2016

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

I’ve curbed my expectations when it comes to this Poe Dameron series. I’m no longer looking for info regarding the state of the galaxy before The Force Awakens. This is simply an action-adventure title, which is fair enough. What I didn’t expect coming into issue #5 was for BB-8 to steal the show.

Poe, Black Squadron, and Agent Terex of the First Order remain trapped in Megalox Beta, a deadly prison run by the slippery and devilishly clever Grakkus the Hutt. Grakkus has struck a bargain with Poe and Terex: Whoever can break him out the fastest gets the location of Lor San Tekka, the man who reportedly knows the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker. Terex definitely has connections that Poe doesn’t. But Poe also has friends in high places…

BB-8 becomes the hero in this issue, leading the other Black Squadron astromech droids on a mission to compromise the prison’s security system. What follows is essentially Mission Impossible meets “Duel of he Droids.” The astromechs hide from guards, until we get what can only be described as a bit of droid martial arts (shown below). It’s a lot of fun, and very reminiscent of the BB-8 we saw in The Force Awakens.

Poe Dameron #5, 2016, droid martial artsSoule and Noto also do a tremendous job of capturing the charm and heart Oscar Issac put into the Poe character. He’s one for sarcastic quips, obviously. But he’s also a born leader. He’s compassionate and empathetic toward his teammates, and he stays positive even in the most dire scenarios. Soule gets Poe Dameron.

Phil Noto is pretty good at drawing him, too. Handling the pencils, inks, and colors on this series, Noto makes each setting in this issue very distinct. A sickly yellow haze hangs over Megalox Beta. Terex finds his way into a dingy and dimly lit cantina, not unlike the one we saw at Mos Eisley. The hangar the droids initially find themselves in is very calm, and has an almost relaxing quality to it with different shades of grayish blue. A stark contrast to the chaos they’re about to cause. And it all feels very familiar, very Star Wars. Noto also gives us a great cliffhanger shot, with the camera down on BB-8’s level as he looks up at a sizable new adversary.

Poe Dameron isn’t the book I wanted it to be. But the last two issues have been more fun, adventurous, and exciting than most of the Star Wars content Marvel has put out since it got the license back. It’s tough to sling mud at something like that.

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A Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – Spoiler-Free For Your Protection

Star Wars: The Force Awakens, posterTITLE: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Adam Driver, Oscar Issaac
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
STUDIOS: Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd, Bad Robot Productions
RATED: PG-13
RUN-TIME: 135 min
RELEASED: December 18, 2015

By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder

This week, The Los Angeles Times ran article about John Williams composing the music for The Force Awakens. The famous film score composer said he felt “a renewed energy, and a vitality, and a freshness that did not estrange any of the characters or material from the texture and fabric of [George] Lucas’ creation — but revivified it.”

That’s pretty much been the energy surrounding The Force Awakens as a whole. We’ve all felt it. This film represents a new dawn for the Star Wars franchise. And the box office figures indicate, we’re ready to greet the day.

The plot for this movie has been delightfully shrouded in mystery from the get-go, and I see no reason to go into detail now. But here are the basics. Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, the First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire. Near the top of their ranks is Kylo Ren, a mysterious warrior following in the footsteps of Darth Vader. But new heroes will rise, such as Rey, a scavenger on the planet Jakku. At her side is Finn, a defected stormtrooper whose conscious led him away from the violent First Order. This duo will fight alongside none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca, heroes of the Galactic Civil War. All the while, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa, searches for the one hero missing amidst the conflict: Luke Skywalker.

Rey, Finn, BB-8, Star Wars: The Force AwakensAs a life-long Star Wars fan, I can indeed confirm that The Force Awakens is good. But it’s a different kind of Star Wars movie. Not drastically so, but Star Wars die-hards may notice. Certain portions have dimmer lighting, which leads to a darker vibe. There’s also a little more blood than we’re used to seeing from Star Wars. It’s still a scarce amount in the grand scheme of things, but it’s noticeable. I attribute this to the absence of George Lucas, who wasn’t there to micromanage things in his own…ehem…unique way.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m a George Lucas fan. But if The Force Awakens proves anything, it’s that Star Wars needed to get away from him. The man who wrote and directed the prequels could not have created a movie like this. This movie gives us new heroes we can invest in and care about. While it doesn’t shy away from nostalgiac winks here and there, it doesn’t need to be propped up by original trilogy elements the way the prequels did. It’s a thrill ride very much worthy of the Star Wars legacy.

Kylo Ren, Star Wars: The Force AwakensThe original trilogy character we spend the most time with is Han Solo, who is as charming and witty as ever. Harrison Ford essentially gives us exactly what we wanted to see from that character. He’s not necessarily the same daring rogue. But he’s still Han Solo. We also see a good amount of Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. It’s especially cathartic to see her in the role again. It’s such an iconic character, and she deserved that renewed spotlight. As for Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker…that would be a spoiler.

Most of the new characters we meet are intriguing. But for my money, none are more interesting than Kylo Ren. It’s encouraging that he’s not simply a Darth Vader clone. He’s very much his own man, with his own demons. Some may argue that makes him less threatening than Vader, or other Star Wars villains. But without saying too much, there’s a level of instability there that should make for an entertaining journey.

Captain Phasma, Star Wars: The Force AwakensA fair complaint about The Force Awakens is that it’s simply the original Star Wars film done over again. The similarities are undeniable. We have our hero on a desert planet who gets a call-to-action from a droid, and is quickly swept into a galactic war against a Nazi-like organization with a base that has the power to destroy planets. Sound familiar? At one point, they even do a side-by-side comparison of Starkiller Base and the Death Star. The inside of the base is also clearly modeled after the Death Star!

Given what we’d seen from our most recent Star Wars movies, I’d argue a throwback isn’t the worst thing in the world. This movie gives people the Star Wars they want to see. Good and evil, the Rebellion and the Empire, Jedi and Sith. Some of the names have changed, but at their core, they’re the same. As a bonus, we even get to see some of the faces we fell in love with from the original trilogy.

131416_ori The Force Awakens is designed to jump-start the Star Wars franchise, getting us to remember what we loved about the originals while introducing new faces to carry the brand into the future. It accomplishes that goal, easily giving us the best installment in the series since Return of the Jedi. Lingering questions do remain, but I expect they’ll be resolved in future films. It’s fun to watch The Force Awakens, and if there’s anything that’s been missing from Star Wars in recent years, it’s that sense of fun and adventure. J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and everybody else involved with this movie deserve credit for living up to the hype, and restoring something that was lost.

So rejoice Jedi, wookies, droids, and even you damn gungans! Star Wars is fun again!

RATING: 9/10

Images from rottentomatoes.com.

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