Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Surpasses All Hopes

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(Photo: Lucasfilm)

Note: There are zero spoilers or plot points in this review. I won't hold it against you if you don't read it until the movie is out, anyway. But I promise, i was very careful.

Here I sit, home from seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I took off my Star Wars belt, my Star Wars socks, and my Star Wars pin. I put on a Star Wars t-shirt, and turned on the "Best of Star Wars" playlist on Spotify. My Kylo Ren Disney Store Elite figure looks at me, as if ready to Force-choke me if I don't finish my review. I look around my room and see my shelf full of Star Wars books and comic books, Star Wars magazines, a BB-8 New Era cap, and posters and other toys. My desktop background is a Star Wars picture (me with a real-life BB-8, in fact - yes, it's weird having myself as my own background, no, I don't care because I'm with freaking BB-8!).

Yes, I am a Star Wars fan of the highest order. I also occasionally write for the official StarWars.com site, something I consider an honor. I've been looking forward to today for three years. I have had countdowns. I've written around three articles per day, on average, about Star Wars in the last month or two (and I'm sure you've read them all, right? RIGHT?). I wanted so much to believe, to trust in the Force, and to have confidence that when this day came, I would have something new to love.

It surpassed all my hopes. I walked out of the theater tonight flabbergasted. I was emotionally filled and drained at once, a walking microcosm of the ever changing balance of the Force. Several times throughout the film, I smiled ear to ear while tears welled in my eyes (starting right at the beginning, with the opening fanfare and crawl).

The movie, in a way, hits all the notes I expected it to. There's legacy and nostalgia. There's daring and hesitation. There's humor (oh, what wonderful, laugh out loud humor) that's cut short by the next big surprise or gut-wrenching heartbreak. In a way, Star Wars: The Force Awakens made me feel like a kid again, or even made me feel the way my mind glorifies the entire Star Wars experience when I try to put it into words. It brought me further into myself in a way very few pieces of entertainment ever have a hope to.

But it also made me feel more. I experienced the newness and the oldness at once. I had the childlike wonder with the mature, adult understanding. I held the returning characters and vehicles and moments close to my heart, while also opening it up to the newcomers.

And oh, what amazing newcomers we have here. Daisy Ridley is, simply, a vision. Rey's every bit the "Luke Skywalker" archetype we all hoped she'd be, yet better somehow, or at least more complete. She's stronger, and more vulnerable. She's less naive but more full of awe. John Boyega's star is born. His struggles, the struggles of a stormtrooper in a fantastic galaxy with blasters and Force-wielding wizards, is somehow still intensely relatable. Oscar Isaac makes a Poe Dameron you want to cheer for, be, or be with. I could sit and watch him fly for hours, or talk with him for days.

Kylo Ren is an immensely interesting villain, and that's all I can really say without any spoilers. I had no idea I'd come away feeling as much as I do about the character.

BB-8 is every bit the droid you're looking for. His popularity, as high as it already is, will only shoot exponentially higher as people see the film. I cared for him like I only have a couple of other droids in my life (you can probably guess who).

The old guard sung, too. Harrison Ford has such a unique spark and twinkle in his eye that his words are Han's words. His feelings are Han's feelings. And they become yours, too. Carrie Fisher's Leia is hard to talk about without spoilers, but when her classic theme plays, it's virtually impossible not to cry.

This movie made me feel. I was happy, sad, shocked, nervous. I felt love and wonder and horror. I left feeling that I'd gotten to know so much, and had more questions than ever before.

And really, that's all I've ever wanted or expected out of Star Wars. When I think about what Star Wars means to me, it's always about the feelings I got at certain moments. The heartbreak of seeing a character leave or die. The accomplishment of a character achieving their goals or discovering something new. The way this cast, this script, this direction, this music, this film as a whole made me feel was familiar and different, old and new, and really, perfect.

And yes, that music - I can't wait to put this soundtrack on repeat. The way it pushed the spectacular action scenes into hyperdrive, and put you inside the dramatic, softer scenes can't be underscored (music pun).

If I dug deep into the film, I could find flaws, things to nitpick and over-analyze. But those are there in the other films, and in games and novels and comics and TV shows that I've loved in this universe. And in the end, they don't really matter, because the feelings got across, and fulfilled me once again.

The Force flowed through that theater tonight. It ran through all living things present. We felt each others' pain and triumph, and found something new to love.

I went into Star Wars: The Force Awakens with a strong sense of hope, but also a bit of trepidation. The magic of Star Wars is when it can increase both, playing both sides - your heart and mind, your hope and worry - the dark side, and the light. I feel the way only Star Wars, out of all of fiction and entertainment, has ever made me feel. It's a respectful nostalgia and a new hope for the future.

I can't wait for Episode VIII.

Grade: A+