Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been a hit with audiences and is already one of the highest-grossing movies of all time. It features great visuals, snappy dialogue, and a likeable cast of young actors such as Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac. Children’s book editor Jordan London was particularly taken with the character Rey (Ridley).
“I think Rey is fantastic,” London says in Episode 183 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “She’s everything I imagined a female Jedi to be when I was running around a forest when I was nine.”
Author Matt London enjoyed the film as well, but he’s concerned that it has fundamentally altered the nature of Star Wars.
“This movie did something to the original trilogy that can never be undone,” he says. “I think it changes the original trilogy in ways that the prequels and the Expanded Universe—as complex and controversial as they are in some ways—never did.”
In particular he’s concerned that The Force Awakens has transformed the Star Wars feature films from a unified story with a satisfying ending into just another serialized sci-fi franchise like Star Trek or the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
“Star Wars is the modern myth,” he says. “It’s the epic that you can use to teach narrative structure, because it fits it so well. And the thing that made me so mad about this movie is, how do you tell the story of Star Wars to your kids now? You say, ‘At the end all the heroes that you loved lived happily ever after … and then two hours later [they didn’t].”
But Jordan London admires the way that The Force Awakens subverts our ideas about happy endings.
“There’s definitely a trend in the stories that have been told in the last decade that take a look at villains from another perspective, or tell stories after they end,” she says. “Because life goes on and it’s not always happily ever after. And I think that says something about our society today, that we’re willing to see what happens after, and that it’s not always pretty.”
Listen to our complete interview with Matt London and Jordan London in Episode 183 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), which also features appearances by science fiction editor John Joseph Adams, author Rajan Khanna, and host David Barr Kirtley. And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Matt London on the target audience for The Force Awakens:
“I can tell you exactly who the movie is for. The movie is for a juvenile adult, somebody who’s loved Star Wars their whole life and is now a grown-up, hates the prequels, and wants a Star Wars that’s just for them. And it panders to that audience from start to finish. The moment that really resonated with me the most is a little bit before the mid-point, when Rey and Finn are connecting on the Falcon for the first time, and they’re going, ‘Han Solo the rebel general?’ ‘No, I mean Han Solo the badass smuggler!’ ‘Luke Skywalker? I thought he was just a legend, but oh man he was the coolest guy who maybe doesn’t exist in the whole galaxy!’ These are 20-something fans of Star Wars cast as the stars of Star Wars. It’s the most Mary Sue experience of that universe that I’ve ever seen—and that’s including many, many fan films that I’ve seen.”
John Joseph Adams on enjoying The Force Awakens:
“I had fun with it. I enjoyed Star Wars for the first time in a long time, whereas after the prequels I wasn’t sure that I ever would again. It retreads a lot of stuff from the original trilogy, and it has a lot of winky things in there, but it didn’t bother me for whatever reason. J.J. Abrams ran with it, and I went along for the ride. I think it’s because I really enjoyed all the characters. It’s kind of the same thing he did with the Star Trek reboot, where I didn’t really like the plot, and the scientific stuff was ridiculous, but I still enjoyed the first one because I really liked what he did with the characters. And I felt like he was doing a similar thing here.”
Rajan Khanna on the grittiness of Star Wars:
“One reason [The Force Awakens] didn’t feel quite like the Star Wars I grew up with was—even though they used practical effects in a lot of places—it felt really shiny and colorful in a way that those movies never felt to me. [Star Wars] is gritty. You can touch it, you can feel it, everything is a little dirty. And I didn’t feel that so much in this, except for the scenes on Jakku. … I recently rewatched Episode II. I was supposed to watch episodes II and III, but I got through Episode II and I thought, ‘I cannot bear to watch III. This was so bad.’ But everything in Episode II is bright and CGI, and nothing feels like it has weight, and it just felt like a parody film of Star Wars. Like the non-porn porn version of Star Wars.”
David Barr Kirtley on George Lucas:
“This movie actually made me appreciate George Lucas more. Because with the prequels, it’s hard to imagine how the execution could be worse, but it’s an ambitious project. He’s like, ‘I’m going to show you how a cute little kid with all this promise turns into a villain, and I’m going to show you how a democracy falls and becomes a dictatorship.’ And I think that’s a story worth telling. I wish he had told it better, but it’s ambitious, it’s trying to say something. I thought Lucas just had these weird, idiosyncratic things that make him so that he can’t create likeable characters anymore, and once he was out of the picture things would improve a lot. But with this movie it’s gone too far in the other direction. Now it’s all about the likeable characters, but it’s not saying anything and it’s not ambitious in any way at all.”