I finally got to Star Wars over the weekend, taking my eight-year-old daughter. She has seen Episodes IV and V, and was eager to see VII. I had read enough to be pretty sure that her not having yet seen VI wouldn’t be a problem, and this turned out to be the case.
First my own reactions: My takeaway is that Abrams avoided all the mistakes that made Eps. I – III so unbeloved, but he did this by virtually remaking the originals. I understand the motivation for this strategy, but a profile in courage it ain’t.
The best new thing was Daisy Ridley as Rey. She was absolutely terrific. John Boyega as Finn was fine: perhaps a little better than fine. Having a woman and a person of melanin in these roles has pissed off all the right people, which is a plus, but as actually played they didn’t make a big deal of this, which is even better. BB-8 pushes the boundary of cloying, but manages to be just on the right side of the line.
On the other hand, mini-Vader as a vehicle for whiny teen angst clearly is going to go poorly. He worried that he couldn’t be as bad-ass as the real Darth Vader. His concern is well founded. It obviously is his destiny to succumb to the lure of the Light Side in the closing act of Episode IX. I foresee him being very annoying as he walks that path.
It was obvious as I watched it that the plot didn’t bear even middling examination, being at best marginally coherent and managing the neat trick of being simultaneously rushed and pedestrian.
I didn’t come out of the theater feeling pissed, like I did after Episode I. Neither did I have the sense of wonder I did from Episode IV. Of course one difference is that I first saw Ep. IV when I was fourteen. What really counts is how the kids react to it.
The Star Wars marketing machine is nothing if not efficient. It has been entirely successful at penetrating the elementary school collective consciousness. When my daughter and I sat down and watched a DVD of Episode IV, she already knew most of the characters. I’m not entirely sure if she wanted to see Ep. VII for its own sake or to maintain her playground cred. She watched it intently, with no squirming or pointed inquiries about additional snack runs, and she grabbed my hand during various scary bits. So it definitely held her attention. On the other hand, it didn’t reduce her to a puddle of goo, and she has not broached the subject of seeing it again.
My sense is that she enjoyed it as part of her cohort’s collective culture, but didn’t have that sense of wonder reaction I did when I was fourteen. I’m pretty sure that eight-year-old girls are within the target market, so while this is a data set of one, I wonder if this bodes poorly for the film having the legs to be the super-mega blockbuster Disney clearly is hoping for.