‘Star Wars’ Fans Call B.S. on ‘The Force Awakens’ on Opening Night
(Redacted below, major spoilers are.)
Thursday evening in Los Angeles, the Force was giddy to lukewarm as fans filed out of the very first screenings of Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens.
The seventh Star Wars flick opens across the globe this weekend, tapping into three generations of obsessive love for George Lucas’s space opera set in a galaxy far, far away. Among its greatest pleasures: New characters like John Boyega’s stormtrooper Finn, Oscar Isaac’s fighter pilot Poe Dameron, and Daisy Ridley as the kickass heroine Rey, a desert scavenger with a big destiny ahead of her.
The J.J. Abrams-helmed sequel also brings back original trilogy stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill as Disney and Lucasfilm cunningly cash in on two abiding constants in the universe of Star Wars fandom: An unwavering sense of nostalgia and the fact that everyone can now agree that the prequels really, really sucked.
Last night alone the Force awakened a record-shattering $57 million in box office nationwide, leaving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2’s $43.5 million-in-one-night record eating its space dust. Hardcore Star Wars cinephiles and costumed fans flocked to sold-out Thursday showings wielding tickets bought months ago, prompting increased security and late night geek-outs around the country.
After the credits rolled on the first public screenings of the first Star Wars movie in a decade, I conducted a highly scientific exit poll in the heart of downtown Los Angeles—starting with a pair of prequel-friendly millennials weaned on their parents’ copies of the original trilogy.
“I really like that a female Jedi is the lead. That’s fucking tight,” said Bunny, 25, who went into The Force Awakens blind, untainted by any hints, clues, trailers, or spoilers.
Even in the afterglow of Star Wars, Bunny was sharply critical of The Force Awakens’ heavily nostalgic story. “It was a really good movie, but it was a lot of passing the baton,” she said. “I guess that had to happen because they want to make more movies.”
“I grew up with the VHSes at home. They were my mom’s favorite movies. I love Star Wars. I think everyone grew up with them on some level. Even though we didn’t see the originals in theaters, we saw them at home as kids.”
After seeing the film, Leo, 25, called out the marketing misdirection in Disney’s pre-release lead-up that suggested that Boyega, not Ridley, was the heir apparent to the Skywalker throne. “There was a big fake out with the marketing!” he exclaimed. “They kept showing Finn as the new Jedi.” When Rey got her own instantly iconic moment, he says, he cheered.
“I grew up on these movies, so for me it was a really big deal,” he said. “I was hopeful and I was also pretty optimistic—even after the prequels, which I enjoyed. Well… kind of. It’s not a very popular opinion. I admit they’re not really what you want out of a Star Wars movie.”
Peter, who snagged a free ticket when a local performing arts college rented out an entire theater for students and staff, scored it a 7 out of 10. “It was pretty good. I think it will satisfy a lot of fans—well, 50/50.” The 28-year-old praised Daisy Ridley’s Rey, even if he totally predicted how her heroine’s journey would play out.
“About 30 minutes into it, I could tell it was leading into the next movie,” he said, quietly, as fans began lining up for the night’s next showings. “They were still trying to find [redacted] and it took a good while, but I’m hoping that it take another ten years [to see.]”
Down the hallway I sensed a disturbance in the Force. A man in a sweater smiled frustratedly as his companions beamed, their eyes alight with excitement.
“I will lead the Resistance of the backlash. It’s the same thing over and over again,” declared Mark, who was decidedly not happy about how The Force Awakens unfolded. “All it does it make me pine for being five years old again. It just reminds me how great the first one was, and that just makes me sad. I’m 43 years old. Everything disappoints me.”
His friend Laurie, 53, “absolutely loved it!” But—“I’m a little heartbroken,” she admitted, referring to the Big Historic Death that sends a shockwave through the Star Wars canon late in The Force Awakens. The emotion of that twist only hit her in the film’s final moments, said Laurie, the only fan I’d meet that actually cried that night. “I had tears in my eyes.”
Laurie spent the run-up to Star Wars Day marathoning the previous six films. “The prequels make me cringe,” she said. “But I don’t think there was anything in this movie that did!” She’s already got tickets to see The Force Awakens again on Friday at Grauman’s Chinese, with friends who have gone to every opening day of every Star Wars film at the historic Hollywood cinema.
“Tomorrow,” she promised, “I will have my Princess Leia t-shirt on.”
An incredulous Mark, the disappointed 43-year-old, turned to his companions. “What did you think of Adam Driver though?” he asked, comparing the Girls star’s turn as new Sith villain Kylo Ren to Hayden Christensen’s loathed run as the moody Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader.
His query was met with blank stares: “Who’s Adam Driver?”
Outside the theater, a trio of men exited the glass doors into the brisk winter air, smiling. “I’m glad that it kind of went back to the original—but I felt that it didn’t take too many risks,” said Vince, 35.
Alberto, also 35, a handsome European who snagged early Thursday tickets just a day ago, shrugged. “I thought it was… delightful. I don’t have a strong emotional attachment to the movies, but I like them. I like the old Star Wars, and Episode III I thought was amazing.“ (He clarified his appreciation for Revenge of the Sith, noting that he mostly liked the part where Evil Anakin lightsaber-slaughters a roomful of younglings.)
As for The Force Awakens’ repetition of the familiar plot turns and themes of past episodes, “I think it was fine. They had to make some decisions. They had to get rid of [redacted], which was great. I’m totally in favor of that. He looked a bit grumpy. He looked like a mad child.”
Alberto also gave big ups to new heroes Rey and Finn. “I like the stormtrooper having a moment of clarity, as alcoholics would call it.”
Jason, 38, gave it an 8.9 out of 10 but is guessing—moreso hoping—that now that J.J.’s done his job of rebooting the same old story, the path has been paved for originality to return to the Force. “I would hope that for the next one they go somewhere else,” he said. “I want to see a bad ass Ewok.”
Much less forgiving of Abrams’ Star Wars shepherding was Roxanne, 34. “I’m glad that [redacted] is dead,” she declared as a male and female Jedi bounded by, heading into the theater. “I don’t want the next 20 movies to be about him and [redacted] getting senile and getting old and watching them slowly die.”
“They don’t even show them making out or anything. It’s like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to see that with OLD people,’” she added, wishing The Force Awakens had played it much less safe. “I just wanted them to act like normal human beings and not automatons meant to appease fans.”
There was at least one scene she enjoyed. “I like the part where Keira Knightley battles the Harry Potter villain in the Narnia forest.”
Pacing nearby, one-half of the galaxy’s baddest space smuggling duo was on his smartphone, waiting for his ride.
“I did not like it,” growled Chewbacca.
“It was basically a retelling of the old Star Wars,” complained the dejected Wookie, who had more than a few beefs with the new episode. “There were a lot of things, like when they’re sucking the power of the sun—well, everything in the whole entire galaxy would have instantly frozen. It’s impossible. So, science.”
Fine: This wasn’t actually Chewbacca, but a sandy-haired 42-year-old superfan in a Chewie onesie named Daniel. As he rattled off the shortcomings of Abrams’ Star Wars and strained to name what he liked about it, he zeroed in on his least favorite performance. “I thought some of the acting was bad,” he said, “Kylo Ren specifically.”
Yet again, Driver’s performance earned an unfavorable comparison to Christensen’s legendarily wooden turn in the prequels. “I did like Rey,” the Wookiee finally offered. “I like the new robot. There were some good things.” He paused. “But it’s just a retelling: Father-son, brother-sister, Luke and Leia, Ren and Rey or whoever…”
Han’s best bro sighed the sigh of a loyal Star Wars fan who knows he’s been had. “I liked Chewbacca. You can never go wrong with Chewie.”