scene from Star Wars

Images courtesy of Lucasfilm/Columbia Pictures/Walt Disney

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

| published December 26, 2015 |

By Michael Bush, Thursday Review contributor

Star Wars. Those two words alone are enough to make me smile. I don't need to know anything else you're about to say following this phrase—the title of my favorite movie series and franchise ever is sufficient to make me happy. Yes, I am a fan of Star Wars.

It all started because my older brother Jay was obsessed with the science fiction space opera when we were kids. He had so many of the toys and knew every minor character you can think of. Jay was, and probably still is a walking Star Wars encyclopedia. And since he loved Star Wars, I loved Star Wars. I'm sure most people with an older sibling can agree that you, as the younger sibling, often take cues from the elder child as to what is currently awesome. Well, I credit my older brother with introducing me to most of the things I still think are cool. I stole his clothes, his music, his toys, his books…hell, I even took one of his adult entertainment VHS tapes one time, which earned me the biggest butt kicking of all time.

So when my cool older brother could recite all of the words to the original trilogy, and could name the guy standing in the back of any scene, even though that character contributed nothing at all, then I knew that these movies were cool. And so I had to love them, too. It wasn't until I was much older that I really got into Star Wars for myself. As a young whippersnapper, I only watched it because my brother did. As a young adult, I came to appreciate the movies as something special.

I became obsessed with the original trilogy myself and even began a campaign to collect anything Star Wars, and hoard it away for riches and fame later in life. I'm talking about anything Star Wars related. I had fast food window decals, giant roadside banners, and coffee cups all sitting comfortably beside my toys—unopened, of course.

You see, it was around this time that the Phantom Menace was being released, and the Lucasfilm Merchandising Machine was operating at full capacity, covering the country—nay, THE WORLD—with as much Phantom Menace garbage as possible. I started to wonder if Mel Brooks was psychic based purely on the merchandising scene in Spaceballs.

But I, being a superfan and a consumer extraordinaire, bought it all. There was never enough. My Star Wars appetite could not be satiated. Until I saw the prequels. To be fair, I loved them at first. I looked past the obvious flaws that we don't need to discuss here. I saw what I wanted to see; Star Wars on the big screen. It was new. There were lightsabers and Jedi. It was almost exactly what I wanted.

But once the prequel trilogy ended, and you could watch all six films side by side, in order, backward, shuffled, or spliced… I found the prequels were actually pretty crappy in a lot of ways. Again, not going to get into that here. But the point is, I was so excited for these movies that I overlooked so many flaws initially. I let George Lucas swindle me with a freakin' Jedi mind trick. "These new Star Wars movies are even better than the originals. Move along."

This hurt me, as a superfan. But it did not dissuade me from loving the originals. I even tried many times to watch the prequels again to find value there. It's hard to do, trust me. But if you really want to experience them in the best way possible, you should watch them out of order. You should look up Machete Order. If you watch the first six movies in this particular way, you'll actually come to appreciate some of the prequels.

Anyway, my love affair with the Force continued. I had a son and named him Lucas. Yes, it is true. Search your feelings. I am his father. Later, we had another son. His middle name? Han. That's right folks, I'm the father of Luke and Han, and proud of it!

So, as you might imagine, I was beyond excited when word spread of the Disney purchase, and of J.J. Abrams making a new Star Wars film. I talked about it with all my nerd buddies. We followed the behind-the-scenes stuff on the Internet. Spoilers were non-existent really because the movies weren't out yet. Everything was speculation, and it was glorious.

And then one day, a couple of weeks before Star Wars: The Force Awakens premiere, I had a sudden anxious thought. "What if this is just like before? What if I spend all of this time building the movie up, and it stinks? Will I lie to myself again about whether or not it's any good?"

Those are some tough questions to answer for a Star Wars fan. I was conflicted. And so, I made a choice. I would not look at anymore Star Wars hype. I would not seek out news about the movie. I would not rush out and buy opening night tickets. Instead, I would casually approach this as I would any other film. I'd purchase a ticket when I could and see it when I could. No rush.

It took diligence and dedication to put myself into a "meh" state of mind about my favorite franchise ever; a franchise that provided inspiration for my two son's names. It was not easy, folks. But I did it. I achieved a mental state of clarity that said, "Hey, bump these movies. I'll see it, sure. But if it sucks, that's fine with me."

I couldn't take another disappointment, so I draped myself in apathetic armor.

My wife and I, along with our son Lucas, went to see a matinee of Star Wars: The Force Awakens here in Penang, Malaysia where we currently live. The theater had about 10 to 15 people other than us, all there to see the Jedi do some amazing stuff with lightsabers.

There will not be any spoilers forthcoming, so please read on freely without fear. If you happened to have read my SPECTRE review, you know that I griped about the nods and winks to the older campy Bond films. Well, I'm a gigantic hypocrite, because I absolutely loved all the nods and winks that The Force Awakens contains. Every time something happened that hearkened back to the originals, I got chills and a smile. I was like a child in that theater, seeing Santa for the first time. The movie was paced so well. We would have minutes of excellent storytelling, and interpersonal dialogue. And then BAM! Blasters, X-Wings, lightsabers, Force powers, space battles, Stormtroopers! Oh, it was magnificent. Chewbacca and Han Solo of Star Wars

One of the parts I really loved was how they took the original trilogy character types and mixed them all up. They basically took what we liked about the original cast, and shuffled those traits around. So, while you have all the right ingredients for the perfect story, it's being told in a new way because the characters are so different. NO SPOILERS, but when you see the movie, you'll get what I'm saying for sure.

Now, I decided to pick two more things to mention specifically here; one good, one bad, and both concerning the villains. I know, I know—my complaints about Bond's SPECTRE came from the bad guy, too. But hold on, just bear with me.

The Supreme Leader in the movie, the head honcho villain, has a dumb name and I don't like it. I also dislike the visual effect used to render his character.

That's it. That's my sole complaint. Everything else about this movie shines as bright as the first time Luke turns on his father's lightsaber in old Ben Kenobi's cave on Tattooine. It was a superfan's dream to see a Star Wars movie in the modern age that didn't stink to Hell and back.

The good part I wanted to mention about the villains concerns Kylo Ren. Holy crap! I won't say much, NO SPOILERS, but I will say that no one in any Star Wars film has ever used the Force like this. He is the coolest Force user ever. It's violent, it feels unstable, things quake, the Force just seems different with this guy. It was the most excited I've ever been watching a movie. Period.

Whether you are a superfan like myself or just a casual moviegoer—it does not matter. This movie will blow you away. It's action, it's drama, it's happiness, it's sorrow…it’s that dang good. And I know for a fact, this time, that it's for real.

P.S. Anybody want to buy a bunch of Phantom Menace garbage...I mean merchandise?

Related Thursday Review articles:

Welcome to my Secret Lair: A Lookat Spectre; Michael Bush; Thursday Review; November 26, 2015.

The Martian: Ridley Scott Scores Big; R. Alan Clanton; Thursday Review; October 6, 2015.