Star Wars: The Force is Woke

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For months, signs that the force was starting to wake up have been popping up everywhere, from Cover Girl mascara to the branding on bags of oranges (because oranges and the robot are both round?). The force was at Subway. It was on Pringles cans. It was EVERYWHERE! Star Wars was coming back, bitches, and its new owner, Disney, celebrated by going all Oprah with the licensing rights. “A Star Wars promotion for you, and you, and YOU!” But could Star Wars be good again after it had been so bad? Could J.J. Abrams, the man who invented Felicity, dazzled and then disappointed us with Lost and brought back Star Trek, breathe life into this franchise once again?

The consensus from the internet seems to be YAAAS. We did it! The force is woke and we are ready to get home, slide into our Chewbacca slippers, tuck our dog into his Yoda pajamas and dream about it all night. Phew. Let’s take a look at just why this movie gets two robotic hand replacement thumbs up.

We begin on planet Jakku, which, to someone who used to watch Return of the Jedi everyday as a kid, looks a lot like Tatooine. Except Jakku, as Han Solo puts it, is “a junkyard” planet, one that houses many old starships, including one we’ve all built out of Legos. We meet some major protags here, like Poe, played by Oscar Isaac, who you may remember from Inside Llewyn Davis, and Rey, our lady hero played by Daisy Ridley. Landing with his fellow Stormtroopers, we also meet FN-2187 or Finn, played by John Boyega.

Wait a minute, you might be saying. Where is Ryan Gosling? What about Bradley Cooper? And ScarJo? Could George Clooney not take a minute out of his busy schedule to be here? Or Meryl?! But no, other than roping in a few of its original stars, The Force Awakens went with fairly unknown/ emerging actors for its main characters. In a world where we are faced with the lead Oscar candidate being some movie called Joy that explains nothing about itself other than that it’s a reunion of the cast of Silver Linings Playbook, this is a laudable move.

An unknown cast worked for Orange is the New Black, but does it work here? It works indeed! John Boyega as Finn resurrects the sense of humor and playfulness that Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher brought to the original series, and Daisy Ridley brings a scrappy bad-assery to her emerging Jedi Rey (and she doesn’t look as much like Keira Knightley in the movie as she does in real life). Hollywood may have conditioned you to expect the whitest male character Poe to be the main character here (even though Oscar Isaac is Guatemalan), but that’s not the case. He ends up sitting out a fair chunk of the action, as Rey and Finn take center stage retreading the goofy yet earnest chemistry of Han and Leia. We can probably expect to see more of Poe in future movies, but overall these three seem more than poised to fully resurrect the force/series.

Lupita Nyong’O (of 12 Years a Slave) was billed as another star of this movie, but unfortunately her talent is far underutilized here. She plays a squat, bright orange CGI alien named Maz Kanata, who isn’t in the movie for very long. Why oh why?

Former side characters C-3P0 and R2-D2 make some appearances, but our new robot hang is BB-8, the perfect droid for the Roomba age. His name uses our most curvaceous letter and number to convey just how roly-poly he is. (Assuming he’s a he for some reason?) His faithful ability to roll alongside our characters is almost as pet-like as Chewbacca, who is not to be left out of these adventures (guttural noise).

The Force Awakens gets major props for having a female protagonist who (so far) has not yet had to be very kinkily chained up in a sexy getup. Instead, Rey sports the coolest lady hero outfit in history, a drapey shirt belted around some cool capri sweats and dirty bandages all up her arms (but she can still totally bend her elbows). She looks like she stepped straight out of the Kanye West fashion show. Well done.

Oh and our villain du jour? None other than Adam Driver, aka Lena Dunham’s boyfriend on Girls. Unable to be as hard-edged as his grand-dad Darth Vader, he’s a true villain for the millennial era. He tears up, he reveals his anxieties and he loves to take his helmet off often to show his Pantene commercial-worthy luscious locks. This takes some getting used to. He’s almost stood up as an evil guy by Domhnall Gleeson as Gen Hux.

The best thing about this movie is its restraint. Instead of trying to create the zaniest, campiest, most insane Star Wars story yet, The Force Awakens went back to the series’ roots, roping in its original cast, its original dramatic premise and even its original starship. This is a story of scrappy action, self-deprecating heroes and figuring out who the heck your dad is, and we’re going to keep it that way! Slow clap for J.J. Abrams. The Force Awakens is no smoke monster. Where is the Star Wars branded champagne? It’s time for a toast.

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