Year Released: 2015
Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Harrison Ford, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher
(PG-13, 136 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“Chewie, we’re home.” Hans Solo
“The Force. It’s calling to you.” So get aboard your nearest time warp to “a time long ago in a galaxy far, far away” for the film that saves Christmas. Now you can forget about all those dour Oscar bait flicks about to lay siege to us December 25, and allow yourself to tear the gift wrap off this early Christmas package.
And this package delivers all the wonder and joy we used to expect under our childhood tree. J.J. Abrams, who reinvigorated the Star Trek franchise, resuscitates Star Wars from all those lame prequels that so badly damaged the brand. Back is the sense of adventure, the fast paced action, and the light banter that first took our collective breath away in 1977.
Director Abrams pays homage to our favorite characters but is not in awe of them as George Lucas seemed to be in the infamous prequels. And Abrams still can surprise us, too. As much as we anticipate Han Solo’s arrival, for instance, it still comes when we are not expecting it, and Harrison Ford’s role here is more than a cameo.
Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) has cast aside her royal title for the new one. She is now simply called General, except to the fussbudget C-3 PO, who reverts to “Princess” a time or two. And, breaking the spell of joy that ended Return of the Jedi, she and Han have not lived happily ever after.
But happily ever after is rather dull, after all, and it’s certainly no way to rebuild a franchise and sell all those new action figures now hitting the shelves just in time for Christmas. Things are not too rosy for Luke, either, who is living in exile. In fact, even R2-D2 has gone into a funk about it, powering himself down in a long-term robotic sulk.
Other metallic cast members reprise their roles, too, with special kudos to our favorite piece of space junk, the Millennium Falcon. It lies gathering dust on the very dusty planet of Jakku, a worthless hunk of “garbage” even to professional scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), who doesn’t even consider its spare parts worth the effort. That is until all other transport explodes before her eyes, and the dilapidated star ship is all that is left.
Of course, there’s new blood on the scene, too, and it does not disappoint. Probably the most interesting is Rey, our resident scavenger, who has learned the ins and outs of space craft as she systematically cannibalizes them for spare parts.
“Who are you?” a wandering droid asks.
“I’m nobody,” Rey replies, throwing away that line in a way that we all know means exactly the opposite, even if Rey herself does not at this moment. The droid, by the way, is just about as cute and personable as the pouting R2-D2. BB-8 is kind of like a snowman whose bottom orb rolls along the sand, his form is well suited for this desert planet.
They soon encounter a defecting storm trooper who calls himself Finn (John Boyega). He soon surprises himself as much as everyone else at his ability to gun down the bad guys. Rey, who pilots the Millennium Falcon equally well, is impressed, especially since Finn tells her he is with the fabled Resistance, surmising that his past as a unwilling star trooper might not win him any friends.
We have another good looking hot shot pilot, Poe (Oscar Isaac) in the Han Solo mode and mysterious Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) a rather successful Darth Vader wannabe, who seems to kill innocents with equal relish.
One subtle difference in this reboot is the expanded role of women. Sure Princess Leia was always feisty, but now she is the top general of the Resistance. Finn is sweet and ultimately finds his courage, but Rey is the real warrior here, almost like Charllize Theron’s Furiosa in Mad Max:Fury Road. Han Solo has relapsed into the smuggling trade, his days of saving the Republic long behind him. Of course this is the same insidious girl power shift we noted in Frozen, where the girls controlled the action while the guys were either inept or evil.
As much as you and the little ones will enjoy this film – my grandson labeled it the best film he has ever seen – there are a few flaws that will probably not resonate, if at all, until a while after seeing it. Rey’s ability to use the Force comes easily and without much effort, making this viewer miss the beauty of Luke’s long and frustrating apprenticeship with the incomparable Yoda. J.J. Abrams’ forte is action, so that’s mostly what we get, without much time to catch our breath and reflect, as all true Jedi knights and their admirers should do. Rey’s transition from the “I’m nobody” scavenger to intrepid aspiring Jedi knight is a bit too hurried.
Finally, Abrams has played it safe here. The new characters are for the most part reinventions of the originals, with a few gender and race exchanges for modernity’s sake. The plot is somewhat derivative – yes, yet another variation of the Death Star, but this time bigger and “badder” with the same fearless pilots flying in those claustrophobic inner passages to destroy it. We even have an interesting repositioning of the Luke/Vader father son conflict and suggested visions of other undiscovered familiar relationships to come.
But all that was almost 40 years ago, and we have a new generation ready to imbibe this heady brew once again. Some have suggested that the second Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the saga, so perhaps this reboot will grow into itself in the second episode of the series as well, which is due out in 2017.
These relatively minor quibbles aside, you cannot go wrong treating yourself to the reawakening of a tried and true classic. May the force be with you.
Where is Luke, the last of the Jedi knights? That is the question on everyone’s minds, from General Leia to the Supreme Leader of the First Order, the new evil empire. Well, Different Drummer certainly isn’t going to give away any of Luke’s secrets, but she can share his favorite drink.
Or if it isn’t Luke’s favorite, it should be. You will love this Luke Skywalker’s Blue Milk Cocktail, enhanced with a triple play of rum, amaretto, and blue curacao. I’m guessing improvising moms could add a little blue food coloring to some eggnog to make a delightful children’s version. (Other child friendly versions appear in after the recipe itself.)
Luke Skywalker Blue Milk Cocktail
Makes 2 servings
3 ounces of milk
1 ounce of cream
1 ounce of coconut rum
1 ounce of amaretto
2 ounces of blue curacao
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake for 20-30 seconds until chilled. Serve in a chilled glass. It tastes like a creamsicle! The almond and coconut flavors help reduce the orange flavor and create a sweeter drink that is a lovely shade of blue.
As always, this recipe is only for Jedi over the legal drinking age! If you’ve got younglings around who’d like to enjoy blue milk of their own (and seriously, what kid wouldn’t want some blue milk?) we suggest the following substitutions:
Coconut water for the rum
Almond milk for the amaretto, which can also take the place of the normal milk
Dilute a little orange juice with a bit of water and add blue food coloring for the curacao. Or, you could take a scoop of orange sherbet and combine it with the food coloring for more of a float style drink.