I’ve watched “Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens” twice in a row now, first in 3D then in 4D.
And I can honestly say I won’t mind seeing it a third time or a fourth.
I was privileged enough to be in the film’s world premiere, a spectacle of multi-colored light sabers raised in salute at the beginning and end. I sat among Star War baby boomer die-hards and new millennial fans decked out as iconic space characters, from Luke Skywalker to Darth Vader.
They all screamed lustily when that hunk of a junk that’s the Millennium Falcon took to the skies. Many blinked back tears when Han Solo and Princess Leah appeared on screen.
I reckoned many among the crowd watched all seven films from 1977. Eagerly, they waited 38 years for this Arthurian passing on of the light saber. Their fervor for the Force was both infectious and exhilarating.
Yet to experience a galactic adventure like this in 4D proved to be more intimate. I was right in the middle of the action, feeling the blast of the spacecraft in my face, jolting along with the pilots in the space battles, smelling the leaves in Luke’s mountain-by-the-sea refuge.
The Star Wars plot itself is re-creation of the original, four decades old, a nostalgic reboot and yes, a tribute.
The scavenger heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), was fresh-faced and made the film feel “young”. Plus she had enough vigor and balls.
I loved her line. “Stop taking my hand,” she snapped at Finn (John Boyega), the First Order Stormtrooper-turned-do-gooder and buddy-in-adventure, as they fled from the minions of the Dark Force between exploding balls of fire.
I won’t really be surprised if Rey turns out to be the sister of the new villain, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who inherited his grandpa Darth Vader’s darkness, along with the black mask and cape.
Ren, aka Ben Solo, of the three-pronged light saber glowing like a massive crimson cross, intrigued me. After all, he’s the son of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) – Luke Skywalker’s twin.
Luke (Mark Hamill) himself taught his nephew the ways of the Jedi but Ren opted for the Dark Side, slaughtered his fellow Jedi apprentices, prompting his uncle Luke to vanish and his own parents to separate.
Still, Ren was deeply conflicted, torn between the dark and the light. Despite his power, he can’t yet control his temper or hold a candle to the Sith Lord who was his maternal grandfather.
Darth Vader was the third greatest villain in cinema history after Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates. He was a real tough act to follow. Hence, the only way to bring a new villain into this world was to kill Han Solo.
“The only reason Kylo Ren has any hope of being a worthy successor (to Darth Vader) is because we lose one of the most beloved characters,” Director J.J. Abrams argued.
“The Force Awakens is the evolution, not just of a hero, but a villain,” he stressed. And it’s not a ready-made one but someone who was “in process”.
Ren felt his father’s love weakened him in the dark side of the Force and so he has to destroy him. “It felt very dangerous. But if we hadn’t killed Han, the movie won’t have any guts at all.”
At any rate, this was not the first time a Star Wars character committed patricide. Luke Skywalker also dueled with his own Dark Force dad, Darth Vader. They also lopped off each other’s right hand during two separate fights.
No doubt the franchise has a fondness for killing off the good guys although Alec Guinness’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Frank Oz’s Yoda returned as ghosts in succeeding episodes.
Who knows? Han Solo might not be gone for good. He can still turn up in the next two sequels – as a revenant of the Force.
In both times I watched the film, the audience gasped in collective disbelief as Ren ran his tri-saber through his dad’s heart as Han attempted to bring him back into the Light.
Needless to say, the light saber battles and X-wing bombing runs among the stars were awesome. The mix of computer generated imagery, aliens and space weirdos felt just right.
In particular, the duel between Rey and Ren in the snow-blanketed woods was fabulous, their light sabers humming fiercely as they fought, the blades slicing off the pines trunks, sizzling in the ice. But before she could kill him, the ground yawned open between them and the Starkiller imploded.
Curiously, Rey and Ren’s relationship seems reminiscent of another son of Han and Leia: Jacen Solo.
Jacen was a leading Jedi Knight who turned to the Dark Force and became a Sith Lord named Darth Caedus. Eventually, his twin sister Jaina Solo killed him in a lightsaber duel aboard the Star Destroyer Anakin Solo.
But that’s another story.
In “The Force Awakens”, Han Solo declares in earnest, “The Dark Side, the Jedi—it’s true. All of it.”
Of course, we know it’s pure fantasy. And yet we delight in it because it thrills and amuses.
The denouement showed Rey finding Luke and returning his light saber, prompting more ecstatic screams from the audience and paving the way for the next two sequels.
Then perhaps we will discover how Luke Skywalker failed to restore the Jedi order, how Supreme Leader Snoke seduced his nephew Ren to the dark side, whether Rey is Ren’s sister and if she is destined to be the one to snuff out his life, plus so many other things besides.
Two years should be a short wait for this resolution.
I only hope they wrap up the next Star Wars episode soon.