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Film

We Got Star Wars Newbies to Review 'The Force Awakens'

According to them it features "giant metal dogs," and is sort of like Adele, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Disneyland, and "Top Gun."
All photos courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Few things in our culture are as monolithic—or as profitable—as Star Wars. Since the first movie's release in 1977, George Lucas's sci-fi series has broken box-office records, launched acting careers, and spawned one of the most devoted and obsessed base of super-fans in any galaxy.

When we learned some of our staffers had never seen any of the Star Wars movies before, we were surprised, amused, and a little appalled. We asked them to go see Star Wars: The Force Awakens with everybody else in America this weekend and report back. Here's what they found out. Spoilers ahead.

Annons

Hanson O'Haver, Social Editor

It's pretty easy to not see a movie, I think. I haven't any Lords of the Ring, nor Titanic, nor Avatar, nor Casablanca, nor The Sound of Music, nor American Pie. I had to look to number 13 on this list of the highest-grossing films to find something I'd seen. A lot of movies have been made, so it really shouldn't come as a surprise that I missed a few here and there. But for whatever reason, people have consistently been shocked by my blind spots, especially when they find out that I'd never seen a Star Wars movie. It wasn't like I avoided seeing them; it just never happened. My parents never saw them so they never showed them to me. As a kid, I mostly watched Comedy Central and avoided anything that involved the imagination. I tried to watch the original film in college, but it felt like a Muppets movie so I shut it off after 20 minutes. I don't take pride in ignorance, though, so when Star Wars: The Force Awakens was announced, I decided I'd see it in an effort to fill in some of the gaps in my cinematic knowledge.

First things first, I think the movie was pretty good, but I don't really get what the fuss is about. Maybe Star Wars is the most popular cinematic franchise in history because society needs something to be the most popular, and Star Wars is as good a choice as anything else. Like Book Four of Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle series, the new film functions perfectly fine on its own, but I highly doubt that people would be making such a big deal about it were it not a part of a larger narrative. The acting was good and the special effects were not bad. (At what point will the ease with which computers can create special effects render special effects pointless?) Based on audience cheers whenever a character from yesteryear entered the screen, the plot seemed to satisfy the mega-fans while not alienating Star Wars virgins like myself. Occasionally I felt a sort of Pavlovian sense of love and comfort and wholeness that reminded me of going to Disneyland with my family as a child, which must have been my only prior exposure to the world of Jedis.

Annons

In many ways, my experience with Star Wars: The Force Awakens reminded me of another film that I recently saw for the first time: Tom Cruise's Top Gun. I left the theater exhilarated by the good guys' victory, but also with more questions than answers. For example, why are they fighting? How do the planes know when their missile locks on to another plane? Is there a reason that the good guys are good, or are they just good because they're the protagonists? And are there seriously people who find extended sequences of planes going fast and shooting stuff entertaining? I guess I could probably watch the rest of the Star Wars series to find answers to these questions, but the next time I'm in the mood for a movie, I'll probably just re-watch A Weekend at Bernie's again.

Zach Sokol, Weekend Editor

I sometimes feel like I'm living a lie: I've spent the last several years of my life writing about arts and culture, but I've never seen any of the original Star Wars films. This is the type of pop-culture offense people should probably have to warn their employers about before starting a job.

I've only seen the third installment of the prequel trilogy, and I watched it on a plane while intoxicated. I still cried when Ewan McGregor yells, "You were the chosen one!" to Anakin Skywalker who—spoiler alert—ends up becoming Darth Vader.

That said, Star Wars is obviously the type of cultural touchstone where it's easy to delude yourself and believe you've basically seen the originals thanks to sheer omnipresence and secondary references in other media.

Annons

Fortunately, the new installment was such a crowd-pleasing nugget of entertainment—jam-packed with both stars and wars—that I felt welcomed into fandom, despite being a straight-up poser. I whooped when Han Solo appeared on screen. I blurted, "Oh shit!" when one of the spaceships leaped into hyperspace for the first time. I even understood a bunch of the Easter eggs, like that one scene where George Lucas makes a cameo.

I'm not going to even try and explain why I think this movie has been so well-received by both critics and the heads. But from the perspective of a first-time Star Wars watcher—I believe this was my first 3D movie too, woof—I think people will like this reboot for similar reasons why people like Adele. The lyrics to "Hello" aren't great poetry; no one is going to mistake The Force Awakens for Cassavetes. But however cheesy or unchallenging these monuments of mainstream pop culture are, they have the capacity to tap into really powerful, universal emotions. It made me feel many types of ways, at least while I was the theater—sipping a Coca-Cola Icee, fidgeting with the ill-fitting 3D glasses, generally consumed by the spectacle. (It may have helped that I sucked down a spliff beforehand, I admit.)

I guess I'm saying I was surprised how the movie simultaneously felt so simple and familiar, but also so titanic—awesome in the old sense of the word . That rare balance is probably essential to any type of iconic world-building in fiction.

Annons

Helen Donahue, Social Editor

I've never seen Star Wars. My dad had the first three on VHS and, because I knew him to be more of a Trekkie, the box set remained packaged in the back of our movie cabinet. These movies may as well have been in black and white—that's what little interest I had in watching them as a child. I didn't have a thing for blonds until my 20s, so Mark Hamill* (everything with an asterisk is something I had to google) wasn't looking too hot and Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones to me. Plus the franchise appeared to be lacking in dogs (Chewbacca* is not a dog, right?).

But I am aware of how popular Star Warshas been as a franchise, as I've been alive over 25 years and have heard uncountable references to the films. I know Luke Skywalker is an average Joe who finds the Force* (which sounds like something Ram Dass talks about in Be Here Now— another gem from the 70s) and kisses his sister—Princess Leia—who then starts dating Luke's best friend Han Solo*, a cheeky, unavailable bastard. They go on an adventure with a few emotive robots until Luke meets his dad, Darth Vader, and has his hand sliced off by a lightsaber. I don't know why Darth Vader bothered to tell Luke he was his father if he was just going to slice off his hand.

As a little girl who openly denounced the sanctity of marriage and was, in general, kind of afraid of men, the whole Jabba the Hutt* thing turned me off. I know the scene in which Carrie Fischer, as Princess Leia*, is shackled to this big, slimy fucker, half-naked and clearly enslaved in what's become an iconic Halloween costume. I had a feeling this repulsive blob forced Leia to suck his dick every night. Why were there action figures of this revolting thing? How did Leia deal with the PTSD of enslavement? I imagine shackled Carrie Fischer was also super hot to basement nerds in the 70s, which creeps me out more.

Annons

I should also disclose I played Shadows of the Empire* on N64 when it released in 1996. There was no sentiment behind this; I was pretty much handed a game that gave me instructions. I was also five years old—my missions required no explanation. I'd lasso the legs of these giant metal dogs with my aircraft until they'd fall and explode in the snow and was continuously searching for someone called Boba Fett, who my older brother told me was a bounty hunter (this still means little to me). I remember nothing else from this game.

I do remember when the three prequels came out, but I wasn't paying attention, and I don't know that anybody else was. I DO know who Jar Jar Binks is because he became the biggest meme of the 1990s, but even google is having a hard time telling me why he exists.

Anyway, I decided to seeThe Force Awakensin 3D, and I decided to see it mildly stoned, which is as out of character for me as seeing Star Wars at all. I took notes, which now allows me to chronicle what went through my head during the show.

I am—and will remain—confused by the droid, whose safety the entire plot of this movie revolves around. It makes a lot of bleep-bloop sounds, and humans and creatures alike somehow understand it. The droid belongs to a pilot named Poe who's obviously from Brooklyn and would have made a great sub-character on Seinfeld as one of Elaine's boyfriends. I guess the droid saves an essential hologram for Poe, who supposedly explodes in this Tremors-esque desert with his new best friend Finn, who I wasn't sure was a robot or not until he took off his stormtrooper* mask. He and Poe instantly remind me of Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum kicking alien ass in Independence Day, so I'm bummed when it looked like Finn's going solo following the crash. Finn apparently fled the First Order. For a defector, he has a surprisingly good attitude about things. After years of intense indoctrination, Finn woke up one day, said, "Fuck this," and decided to become good.

Annons

Finn meets a girl (Rey) who's way too hot to be bargaining for meal rations in the desert. She lives alone in a hut, and I saw the ruins of a metal dog buried in the sand and knew, from my experience lassoing them on N64, I am indeed watching a sequel. Finn and Rey find a decrepit spaceship, and everyone in the audience starts applauding. I have no idea why because NOTHING works on this ship, but the girl has moxie and legitimate piloting skills (super believable), so she saves the droid and Finn and transports to another galaxy. I should note Finn's kind of obsessed with Rey. When he tries to hold her hand a second time, after she firmly requests he stop grabbing it and then asks if Rey has a boyfriend back home, I wondered if he'd be helping her out at all if she did.

Next, old-ass Harrison Ford walks in as Han Solo and, while he's a total dick, the crowd goes apeshit over his dad jokes. From pop-culture references, I assumed he was frozen, so I was unsure what to think—he looked in good health to me. He had his best friend Chewbacca with him, who carries a crossbow and complains a lot in an untranslated language.

Straightaway, Han doesn't believe a woman can pilot any type of plane in this movie. Was this a reference to the plot of Six Days Seven Nights, when Harrison Ford encourages a barred-out Anne Heche to take the wheel of a two-person-plane and direct it safely back to the South Pacific island of Makatea? Either way, I'm thinking David Schwimmer should make a cameo.

Annons

About an hour in, we meet some dude (spoiler) with an overwhelming Scottish accent. While it's pretty hot, I'm left wondering how a Scotsman got to whatever galaxy they're on. I guess the Force really is awakening.

Speaking of the Force, I'm confused when Carrie Fischer says, "May the Force be with you" to Rey because Rey doesn't reply "and also with you" back and shake Carrie's hand like in church.

Leia shows up with something called the Resistance—people and creatures opposing the First Order—and she and Han exchange a lot of banter and old-person sexual tension. They apparently have a child together, but he's gone rogue. I realize their son is the dude the film had panned onto in the first few scenes. He looks like Darth Vader, with the same weird asthma-inducing helmet, except he's wearing Hood By Air. I didn't know what to think until I realize it's Adam Driver under the mask, who I can't take seriously unless he's asking Lena Dunham for apple juice and being the poster man-child for selfish assholes everywhere on HBO's Girls. Even so, I actually think he's a brilliant stage actor, and I'd fuck him, so I was nervous to see him in a Star Wars movie. This film could pigeonhole him as an emotionally unavailable bad boy forever… or is he actually playing one in The Force Awakens? When he kidnaps Rey I initially couldn't tell if they were going to get it on or not, but her ability to harness his power when he attempts mind control should have been a clear and instant turn-on. This says a lot about my relationships, as I clearly envision unbridled hatred sparking an immediate sexual connection between two people easier than love between Rey and the dude who's working his ass off to save her.

I think Adam Driver is pissed Rey has the "Force" and he doesn't, but at one point he does say, "Let me be your teacher," which is essentially pre-foreplay dirty talk. No girl can resist that kind of language—I would have fallen for it. Fuck the dude trying to save my life.

Adam Driver's name in this movie is unclear to me, but when Harrison Ford confronts him on an excruciatingly narrow open walkway above the pits of hell, he yells "BEN" at the top of his lungs. I'm both astonished and disappointed considering all the wacky names I've heard since the Force awakened. Adam Driver starts fake-crying and impales his dad with a lightsaber. Han is a fucking idiot for thinking he could talk his estranged son into coming back into the "light" with a 30-second speech. Driver's character is addicted to this bad guy shit. What bothers me most about this scene is Han's last gesture of grazing a hand gently across his son's face as he dies, impaled on Driver's lightsaber. Did we learn nothing from We Need to Talk About Kevin? You can't choose your kids, only to have them. That one's on you, Han.

The movie ends with Rey fighting Driver (instead of fucking him… booooring) and running up a hill, where she finds a disgruntled old man in a hooded burlap sack that is, of course, a super run-down Mark Hamill. I can't say I expected much else after 30 years, but he looks kind of like a Yoda. But maybe that's what Jedis* become after a couple hundred years. Rey doesn't say anything and just holds Luke's lightsaber up to him, which he doesn't take a single step toward. Is Rey Luke Skywalker's daughter? With whom? What's the plot twist here? Who fucking knows, but the look on his face when the camera zooms in reads, "Please let this be over."

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