It’s been a long time since a movie captivated me the way Star Wars: The Force Awakens has. I’ve already seen it twice in IMAX 3D and plan to see it for a third time at the end of this week. Without doubt, I am fully supportive of, and contributing to the $1 billion sales and beyond. It’s good old fashioned storytelling at its finest, and I love stories that make you believe.
After seeing The Force Awakens for the first time, I went back and marathon-watched all of the Star Wars movies, first the original Episodes 4-6 and then the prequels Episodes 1-3 (sigh), I give praise only to A New Hope for originality. I return to my sharp criticism of the prequel trilogy for piss poor everything. The only solace I have in Episodes 1-3 is the running mockery of sorry story lines my brother and I text to each other every now and then. Indeed, this brings us great joy–the making fun of something made so terrible.
I returned to The Force Awakens a second time after completing the Star Wars marathon. I needed to balance myself — recover, really — from the unreasonable logic, awkward dialogue, and amateur acting featured so brilliantly by the end of Episode 3. I returned to the IMAX theater and sat there in all its 3D glory, surround sound blasting an incredible John Williams score that revealed yet another dimension to what I believe to be, a true story told authentically. Sure, the plot is near identical to A New Hope, but at least we know the foundation is credible. And with it, the daunting reality of inevitable change; the insurmountable task of telling a new story that can maintain the structural integrity of the original while also introducing new characters, new twists, new sets, scenes and fight choreography. New everything.
Good design does this. Which is why when I watched the movie for the second time, it wasn’t Daisy Ridley’s character, Rey, that I identified with. The truth was, while I truly appreciated a strong female lead that is both divergent as much as she is inclusive, as stable as she is unknowingly an agent of change, as determined as she is in way over her head, as extraordinary as she is ordinary, that role wasn’t the one that I was drawn to. I have already been living those traits for nearly 28 years. Instead, I was drawn to something far more interesting–
J.J. Abrams. The director.
I was fascinated by his ability to orchestrate multiple character arcs in a way that told the most compelling story, simply. It was his vision brought to life through authentic performance. When you listen to the countless promotional interviews the actors have given, they all note his kindness and collaborative style. His ability to bring out the best in them. His leadership. And the way his joy for something he loved was so contagious on the set, providing a space for preparation and play. My goodness, I thought, he said No to this at first.
I, too, first said No to moving to Washington, D.C. when I was originally asked. I, too, first said No to returning to Lehigh for a fifth year.
Rey also first says No, to joining the adventure in The Force Awakens. And Luke, before her, in A New Hope.
Imagine if the universe took No for an answer.
“If you don’t have the story, if you don’t have the characters, if you don’t have the direction, the point of view, the drive, the conflict, the right dialogue…if you don’t have the stuff that matters in every story, it won’t work in a Star Wars story,” Abrams said during an interview. “And I know it’s so obvious to say but I keep realizing the more I work that the most obvious things are the most important things, and it’s never too late to be reminded of the stupid obvious thing.”
This is the story of a young woman living in the heart of Capitol Hill. She is self-made and has her shit together.