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There are major spoilers in this review. Duh.

I know it took me months to write this, but I think part of it was my laziness, and part of it was that I wanted to wait until the hype was off me to get my real thoughts. It was impossible when it first came out to do anything but scream excitedly STAR WARSSSSSS at everyone. I went to the giant IMAX in Massachusetts with my friends and it was incredible, every second of it. I saw it several times afterward. Each time I laughed, I grinned, I got emotional, and I came out going GIMME THE NEXT ONE NOW. I’ve read reviews, essays, and tons of capslocking from my friends. I’ve been reblogging gifs on Tumblr pretty much constantly (waftingcurtains, follow me). I’ve already heard from people who didn’t like it, and found their reasoning interesting. I agree with some of the criticisms. I’ll get to that in a bit. But just so you know, I loved this movie with every inch of my being, and if you continue to read this, be aware there will be big spoilers and also fangirling. You have been warned. This is a long review, but it could have been longer. So much longer.

This movie is set about 30 years after The Return of the Jedi. Luke attempted to create a new Jedi Academy, but something went very wrong and he’s been missing for several years. We meet Rebel pilot Poe Dameron who was tasked by GENERAL Leia to find a map that might lead her to her brother. At the same time, the First Order wants the same thing. The First Order is basically the aftermath of the Galactic Empire. I know a lot of people who questioned how there’s still such a big force of evil left. Uhhhh, just killing the Emperor and the Death Star didn’t stop the empire, guys. It’s huge. There will always be generals or other members of an empire scrambling to take the place of the leader when they’re gone. The Republic might have been created and supported again, but they had to build from the ground up and from a place of weakness after people had so long accepted the reign of a tyrant. There is a new Resistance that Leia is still fighting for. One of the newer stormtroopers, who are no longer all clones, starts doubting his missions. He saves Poe after Poe is taken captive by Kylo Ren, a sinister Sith Lord with ties to the Skywalker family. Poe names him Finn instead of the number he is assigned, and they become fast friends, but they are shipwrecked on their way back to the desert planet Jakku. Poe left his BB-8 droid there with Luke’s map, so he needs to get it back. A scavenger known as Rey has protected the BB-8 droid, while she just tries to survive day to day in the wasteland of Jakku.

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Finn and Rey run into each other and he recognizes the BB-8 unit. He lies and tells her he’s part of the Resistance, which pleases her, and then they are attacked by the First Order. They flee in the Millennium Falcon, and then run into Han Solo who is there to claim his ship with Chewbacca. Everyone in the audience applauded when we saw this the first time. When I saw this the first three times. What happens from there is that Rey’s Jedi powers start to manifest, Finn tries to flee but comes back when Rey is kidnapped by Kylo Ren, and the Resistance figures out that the First Order has an even bigger weapon than the Death Star. Yes, this is a little ridiculous. I mean bigger does not mean better, guys. The most consistent criticism I’ve seen of this, and it’s completely accurate, is that this movie is basically A New Hope. You can see the nicer comparisons in the gifs above, but yes, it’s a desert loner with Jedi powers being drawn into the rebellion by an older mentor figure. Joins the Rebellion and fights an evil Sith Lord, loses said mentor, they win the day by hitting an impossible target, etc. It’s an intentional comparison, but that doesn’t mean I’m excusing it. I think I’ll reserve judgment on this until I see the second one. If they continue to follow the exact same plans as the first series, it’s going to be a problem. If it’s just this one, and everything is more original from here, I’ll be forgiving. To be determined.

Obviously it needs to be said that the big NOOOOOO moment, like Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death in A New Hope, is that Han Solo is killed. I appreciate that the movie tells us very early on that Kylo Ren is actually Han and Leia’s son. He was twisted by the Dark Side and influenced by the First Order leader, apparently, but he killed Luke’s new Jedi group, leading Luke to eventually flee. We don’t know all the details outside of those bare basics and I hope we do some day, because I am super interested in knowing what happened and why. Another criticism I heard here is that they named their son Ben, after Kenobi one would imagine, and that doesn’t make a lot of sense for Leia and Han. They didn’t have a connection to Ben Kenobi like Luke did. Still, it was an emotional decision on the part of the writers, I think. What is a name that would make all fans of the original hurt? There we go. Ben Solo does seem to almost bend when Han reaches out to him, but instead he kills his father. I personally hope this means they have no intention of redeeming him. I like redemption storylines, but they’re not always valid or necessary. Some people just go too far and that’s it for them. I guess we’ll see how it goes, but killing Han Solo is not easily forgivable by anyone. In the end, Rey goes off to find Luke with Chewbacca and the newly returned R2-D2, and we see her offer him his lightsaber. He looks exhausted and sad.

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There are so many good things to unpack in this. Obviously I couldn’t get into every single detail here. Well, I could, but it’d definitely become an essay in that way. First off, obviously it’s delightful to see the original cast back for this. It is difficult to see what a hard life our beloved characters ended up with though. Leia and Han couldn’t work out after the loss of their son to the Dark Side. Luke abandoned everyone out of grief and possibly guilt (we will see more I bet). This was not the happy future we wanted for our triumphant favorites at the end of The Return of the Jedi. I understand how that is upsetting for people, but this movie wouldn’t be very interesting if everything was perfect and hunky dory for the cast afterward. Maybe I’m just jaded after reading the many, many books of the extended universe, where everything ends up in a lot of grief. Happiness is fleeting. These are people always striving for good, but struggling with a lot of bad. I definitely understand that this movie in a lot of ways is very sad. Happy endings don’t exist here. Han’s dead. They’re still fighting the same battles decades later.

There is hope for the future, and I think that’s because of the new cast. Don’t get me wrong, I love the original cast and I can’t wait to see what we get from Leia and Luke from here. I hope Leia gets to confront her son at some point. There has to be something in her that aches because it was her request to Han to reach out to Ben. But the new cast is amazing, and that’s how this film was such a success. They provided us with three (technically four with Kylo Ren) excellent new characters to root for. When the original cast is faded out a little, we will probably continue with Rey, Finn, and Poe. And I am 100% fine with that. What this movie excelled at was humor in the midst of darkness. There were several laugh out loud lines. It started out on a laugh, with Poe snarking at Kylo Ren about his mask. The writing was excellent. The acting was strong, and I felt for the new trio. Finn, with all his awkwardness and desperation to create his own life; Rey, an outsider waiting for a family that would never come and discovering the power inside; and Poe, the bold and warm hearted Resistance fighter who doesn’t judge a book by its cover. These are people I would like to know, that I can easily root for.

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Obviously, Rey is the protagonist and the stand out in this group. She is the Jedi coming into her own. She is the new inspiration for a lot of little girls, teenagers, and grown women, and we’ve been waiting a long time for her. I always loved Princess Leia, do not get me wrong, but it’s delightful to see Rey center stage here. Representation matters. Rey matters. You know who else does? Finn! When the trailer first came out, internet trolls and jerkfaces were upset about the black Stormtrooper being a lead, and the woman being the main character. There was a lot of drama over the toy industry not providing enough Rey material while throwing all the other male leads in aisles instead. Poe is also a POC, so basically this movie was probably a nightmare for all those angry trolls who hate SJW (Social Justice Warriors) taking over their fandoms. And I just grin and cackle in my corner as Star Wars annihilates the box office. And when Rogue One trailer came out and it’s like MORE WOMEN AND POC IN MAIN ROLES? AHHHHH. It’s like the writers of these films remembered how critical people were of the lack of either in Star Wars, and said here have them all. Here’s hoping that people enjoyed the performances enough to look past that stubbornness and embrace our new heroes, because that’s what they are. Live with it.

It’s wrong not to mention how beautiful the film is. There are some stupendous shots like the one at the top of this review, on Jakku. The incredible green of Takodana, and Rey’s shock looking at its beauty, was also lovely. The interesting Imperial style of the First Order with all their red and white, I loved that. The CGI was on point. Everyone looked great. It was visually stunning to watch. The score was great. Everything was as it should be. I guess my criticisms of the film would be the obvious ones. It’s too much like A New Hope. I rolled my eyes when they’re like A NEWER BIGGER DEATH STAR? Really guys. You better offer something different next, because nostalgia won’t get you past this point. I was disappointed by the lack of Luke, but I realize why that needed to happen and that we’ll get plenty of him next movie. I also hope we get some back story. The first time I watched it, I was not impressed with Kylo Ren at all and didn’t like the actor. The second time I warmed up, and the third time I actually did like the performance. Because he reminded me of snotty whiny Anakin Skywalker, and that seemed to fit. But all my criticisms or momentary ‘hmmm!’ side eyes didn’t matter. In the end, this movie gave me joy, and it made me feel things, and I got excited for the next one. That’s what it needed to do, and it succeeded. I’ll get to see more good Star Wars movies in my lifetime. That is thrilling. I can’t wait to see what is in store for our future now. May the Force be with you until then.

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RIP, Han Solo.

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