That’s right, I said it: The Force Awakens is more rewatchable than A New Hope.
Hold on before you burn me at the stake for heresy! Note what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that The Force Awakens is better than A New Hope. And I didn’t say that The Force Awakens is more rewatchable than Star Wars. Those are both very, very important points. How so? Read on.
I myself was a little shocked to discover this. I have been rewatching the movies in anticipation of The Last Jedi. (Not including the prequels: I have seen each of those once, and once was one time too many.) I bought Rogue One on blu-ray, only to discover that, however much I liked it in theaters (review here), I simply don’t care about it anymore. It is superfluous to the overarching story. A well-made movie, but superfluous.
There is another simple answer. I have seen The Force Awakens maybe a half dozen times now. I have seen Star Wars dozens of times. There is a freshness to The Force Awakens that has worn off of Star Wars, no matter how much I love it.
I might as well go ahead and address the elephant in the room. I said A New Hope above, not Star Wars, the title I still prefer for the original movie. I say that because Lucas’ additions and edits make an enormous difference for the movie’s rewatchability. If I had a good remaster of the original on blu-ray, sans cuts, I would watch the hell out of it (are you listening, Disney—whatever happened to corporate greed?). The original really does hold up. I recently saw it on the big screen (accompanied by an orchestra) and that opening shot of the imperial cruiser is mind blowing.
Do you know what doesn’t hold up? Lucas’ CGI additions. A lot of this is bad timing. Lucas happened to make those edits (and the prequels) at a particularly bad time for CGI. Directors (lots of directors, not just Lucas) were trying to do more with CGI than the state of CGI at the time would really bear. The additions generally do not look good. Worse, they are terribly jarring spliced into a movie with old-fashioned practical effects that still look great.
Other changes, like Greedo shooting first and the scene with Jabba, don’t just undercut the story, they stick in your craw because you know they undercut the story and were added needlessly.
The Force Awakens, on the other hand, looks fabulous. Seriously, they did a phenomenal job. The effects, the design, the props, everything is perfect. And it doesn’t just look great, it looks like Star Wars. After the too slick designs of the prequels, the worn, lived in look of TFA is welcome. Heck, the Millennium Falcon manages to look like even more of a beater.
Speaking of which, the bigger factor is that the makers of TFA knew where every nostalgia button is, and they hit every one of them hard. I still get a bit verklempt at the first sighting of the Millennium Falcon and at Han and Chewie’s return to the Falcon. The score, the setting in Jakku, various nods to the original trilogy, the admittedly overly derivative plot—all are aimed squarely at pushing nostalgia buttons.
TFA is also so. much. fun. The actors are obviously having an enormous amount of fun making it. The movie invites you to revel in the fun of watching it. Make what criticism of Rey you will—I prefer to watch a hero. Perhaps all that hurts it as a work of art that stands alone, but damned if it doesn’t make for an enjoyable watching experience.
But the single biggest thing is that it is a new chapter in Star Wars. When I rewatch Star Wars, I know how the story continues. If I rewatch Rogue One, I know how the story continues. But after The Force Awakens, for the first time in forever, I don’t know what’s coming next and I can’t wait to find out!
I have tickets for a showing of The Last Jedi tomorrow (so expect a review later in the day tomorrow). The big question is: Will I still be so excited to rewatch the new movies after watching The Last Jedi? The Force Awakens proved to me that they could make another Star Wars movie. But remaking The Empire Strikes Back isn’t going to cut it. The Last Jedi needs to tread new ground.