Abrams to Lucas: I will ‘Finn’ish what you started

We knew this was going to be big.  But mother of god, Star Wars completely destroyed all but the highest of records this past winter break.  If you have a pulse, at least one working eye, a connection to anything that runs off electricity, or a friend who has stepped out of their house at least once in the past month, then there is likely no way that you could have escaped the hype that has been J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens.” Unfortunately, the arts editors (*cough cough*) wouldn’t let me take the whole section for the review this movie deserves, so strap yourself in for the shortened version of the Star Wars box office and nerd-fandom review.

If you somehow have not seen it yet, first of all, put down the paper and get your butt into a theater.  It’s worth every penny that you will pay to see it.  However, if you want to keep reading before you get to that point, don’t worry, this first part will be spoiler free.

Let’s look at the numbers.  Star Wars is currently around a healthy $1.7 billion internationally, which puts it behind James Cameron’s Titanic ($2.18 billion) and Avatar ($2.788 billion).  While experts predict it will catch Titanic but fall short of Avatar, the new crew of Jedi, pilots and aliens have already had a pop culture, day-to-day impact that Cameron’s tall blue aliens, despite their impressive box office figures, never will.  There has yet to be one time in the past two months where I have left my home for any reason at all and not seen a Star Wars figure on a billboard, TV screen, or even a box of cereal.  Some have complained that it’s been excessive, but it has paid off.

Currently, Star Wars sits as the highest grossing movie in the American market of all time.  Domestically, it sits a comfortable $60 million or so above Cameron’s Titanic and Avatar, and a crushing $340 million above the love-it-or-you-HATE-it “Star Wars the Phantom Menace.”  What’s most impressive, though, is the speed at which domestic records have fallen.  IMAX, as of early Jan. 4, had made over $150 million in its 19 days of running Star Wars – Avatar took 47 days to get to the $150 million mark by comparison, which included a release to the 1.3 billion people in China that Star Wars was not showing to until well after.

“The Force Awakens” shattered Avatar’s hold on the U.S. title, passing it to claim the no.1 spot in only 20 days – making more money in three weeks than Avatar did in 38 (if you want to claim the international no.1 spot, staying open in theaters for over half a year would be the way to do it I guess).

Why did it do so well? All right, put down the paper and get to the theater – read this later, because spoilers are coming.

To put it simply, this movie just kicked ass.  The three main characters – Rey, Finn and Kylo – were some of the most well-written in the entire saga.  The actors, Daisy Ridely (Rey) and Adam Driver (Kylo) were phenomenal, with only scarce and short vestiges of the cringe worth line delivery that was the Hayden Christensen/Natalie Portman relationship of the prequel trilogy.  The fourth new character, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron, was not as integral to the plot, but brought wit and humor to all of his scenes with a poise and deliverance of someone who has already won several Oscars.

Even the secondary characters were fantastic.  BB-8, a droid of all things, gave the funniest delivery of the movie, with the thumbs up in the Millennium Falcon that got the entire theater laughing all three times I saw it.  Chewbacca, the “fur ball” of the original trilogy, was much more involved, helping advance the plot (his rampaging kill shot spree in the Starkiller Base was amazing), provide some comic relief (“oh, you must be so brave” anyone?), and even make a person or two cry following what will come down as the saddest bridge scene in modern cinema.

Our returning heroes played their part as well.  Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is the world’s leading candidate for the Oscar winner of “best facial expression,” while Carrie Fischer was the Princess, sorry, General Leia that we all know and love.  Harrison Ford stole the show, though.  My pick for the best (among several other great) overall performance, even the most passionate of Lucas haters will be glad that George denied Harrison Ford’s request to kill off Han Solo in the original trilogy (fun fact, he wanted to die early in episode VI or late at the end of V so he could move on from the role, which explains why his acting was so much more “I am not a human with emotions, I am a wood board” than in Empire).

Ford clearly wanted to be present in this film, though, as he played the “mentor” role to perfection.  His genuine happiness in being back in the Falcon brought several of the friends I saw the film with to tears, and his epic scene at the end with his son Ben was one of the best moments of his entire acting career.

While its biggest critics lament the return to the “white-washed” (oh please give me a break) episode IV plot, this Star Wars is meant to be.  A mythical tale of someone who is forced into adventure, an amazing mentor who dies, and a giant thing in the sky that needs to explode.  True, it is an overused plot, but the nerdiest among us know that Lucas wrote the saga as poetry, and that the changes in “repeated” plot are what makes the story great. While monetary value should not be what distinguishes good movies from bad, in this case, the money only goes to support that this movie is a hit.