WASHINGTON, December 27, 2015 — Give credit to screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and J.J. Abrams for attempting to breathe much needed life into the Star Wars franchise, which creator George Lucas, through a series of atrocious prequels, nearly killed.
But it’s been almost four decades since Star Wars premiered at San Francisco’s Coronet Theater on May 28, 1977. “Star Wars, The Force Awakens,” starring Daisy Ridly, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and members of the original cast, is burdened with the thankless task of introducing a new generation of moviegoers to the intergalactic war pitting rebels and Jedi Knights against remnants of a tyrannical empire, a struggle animated by opposite sides of an all-encompassing and invisible “Force.”
The story begins with imperial storm troopers landing on a desert planet in search of a droid and the vital information it carries. Unable to find what he seeks, Kylo Ren—a mask-wearing villain who idolizes the late Darth Vader—orders his troops to kill everyone in the village.
One white-armored soldier doesn’t follow orders.
It is the internal conflict of storm trooper FN-2187 (John Boyega), later called Fin, that launches the initial story line, one that liberally borrows plot devices from the original: a desert planet; a droid possessing a message vital to the Rebellion; that message falling into the hands of Rey (Daisy Ridly), a natural pilot with unexpected depths. Rey scavenges wrecked Imperial star cruisers, living a hand-to-mouth existence and dreaming of something better, not knowing her parents. Yet her inner, dormant power eventually lands her at the center of an epic struggle.
The added burden for the screenwriters—bringing a new generation into the Star Wars fold—deprives this latest addition to the “Star Wars” saga of the dramatic peaks and valleys that made the original trio of films so memorable.
The special effects in this latest episode are, of course, superior to those of the original. But the battle scenes in this film are flat, failing to provide the emotional satisfaction that moviegoers felt when the hero vanquished the foe in the original.
Living as we do in the age of non-judgmental multiculturalism, the screenwriters get credit for clearly defining their characters as good and evil, and for highlighting how quickly after a major conflict, good’s complacency provides a playground for resurgent, totalitarian evil.
Sci-fi blogger Gerry Canavan notes, however, that political correctness has begun to infiltrate the genre:
“A few decades ago,” writes Canavan, “if you saw a lovely spaceship on the book cover, with a gorgeous planet in the background, you could be pretty sure you were going to get a rousing space adventure featuring starships and distant, amazing worlds.”
Today, he says, it’s more likely the story is about “racial prejudice and exploitation, with interplanetary or interstellar trappings … If we’re going to do a Tolkien-type fantasy, this time we’ll make the Orcs the heroes, and Gondor will be bad guys. Space opera? Our plucky underdogs will be transgender socialists trying to fight the evil galactic corporations … The humans are the invaders and the native aliens are the righteous victims. Yadda, yadda, yadda.”
The conclusion of “Star Wars, The Force Awakens” does not descend into murky equivalence, sending a clear message that life’s great moral questions are still black and white.
The light saber of righteousness is literally passed—to borrow from the New Testament—to him that stands firm with the “truth” fastened around his waist, “with the breastplate of righteousness arrayed.”
With introductions thus out of the way, this film’s sequel should be a lot better.