Star Wars: The Force Awakens

NOTE: This post contains no spoilers. But a very clever person could conceivably synthesize things with this general info and some of the readily available stuff about the movie. So, if you're super-concerned but can't get out to see it yet, there is a small but non-zero risk.

There's an argument to be made that Star Wars/ Ep 7 relies too heavily on plot beats and tropes from Epiosde 4. But I'm not going to be the one making that argument.

Here's what I like to think. I like to think that The Force Awakens is intended as a proof of concept. As a gesture of restoring trust. As a way of proving something all of us, deep down, were worried about - that Star Wars was a weird kids movie we all latched onto in the 70's, that Empire was a fluke, and that the universe as a whole was a rotten she'll propped up by nostalgia.

But no. You can make a very good Star Wars movie in 2015. Maybe not a very original one, but certainly a very good one with enough tweaks to the formula to seem, if not necessarily fresh, at least reheated by someone who knows what the fuck they're doing. Yes, it's Star Wars as seen through the filter of a modern action blockbuster, where the shortest distance between any two points is through an elaborate action set piece, but Star Wars nonetheless.

The movie also benefits from the sequels not having been made yet. It sets up some intriguing mysteries and future plot threads that, as of now, I can pretend will totally be resolved in nifty and satisfying ways. I can wonder of the way the First Order comes off as a kind of weird, slightly off-kilter, Empire-worshipping cult - almost a Tea Party to the Empire's Reagan Republicans - is intentional and something that will play out more going forward.

In some ways, there's a very Star Wars Ike struggle at the heart of the making of this movie. Do you give in to the dark side of the nerd, and use your movie-making power to slavishly ape the things you loved as a teenager? Star Trek: Into Darkness gave in to the Dark Side, and while I can still sense some good in it, the last 20 minutes cause me tI give in to anger and rage.

The Force Awakens is more like Luke in the Emperor's throne room in Jedi. It wants to cross that line. It wants to real bad. You can almost watch the struggle on the movie's big, dumb face. At a couple of points, it walks right up to the line, but then catches itself, pulls itself back, and stays on the Light Side of the Nerd. Informed by what came before. Paying homage to what came before. Blatantly stealing from what came before. But still managing to be its own thing.

I want the sequels to go even farther down this path. I want the people involved to be thinking "OK, now that we've earned your trust back, let's show you where we'd REALLy like to take things", and go off in interesting new directions with what they've set up here. It may not happen. I wanted the same thing after the JJ Abrams Star Trek, but then he left and it fell into the hands of fucking nerds.

But even if it all turns to shit, The Force Awakens is still the third-best Star Wars movie ever made, and it might even be the second-best, if you take into account how brutal the Special Editions were to the quality of Episode 4.