Fair warning: There are no explicit spoilers, but if you haven’t seen the new movie and want to go into it without knowing anything, I would avoid reading this. (And go see the movie already, what are you waiting for?)
Let me start by saying I loved Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens. I laughed, I cried, I *squee*’d, I even groaned at awful dialogue a couple times. There has been a lot said about this film, so I won’t bore you with my full opinion/review/summary/etc.
For a while I had a hard time expressing a lot of what I felt, and then this article came along and it was pretty much everything I wanted to say about this movie.
It captured my “shut up George Lucas the retro thing is because that’s the story. It’s bigger than your stupid ideas now” feels.
My only gripe with that article was this line: “…even the more gratuitous fan-service moments — like Han’s eye-roller of a line about the trash compactor…” Now. I admit, that on it’s face, this line does seem like gratuitous fan-service, and my knee-jerk reaction in the theater the first time was, in fact, to groan a little and chuckle at the obvious callback.
But. A split second after that, I stopped myself. I thought, “Well, really, if it were me, and I found myself back on an evil base run by the same stormtrooper’d assholes as that one time I tried to escape through a trash chute, wouldn’t I make the same joke?” And the answer is yes, yes I would. With the same eye twinkle as Han.
In JJ’s first Star Trek reboot, the references to previous material weren’t subtle, and they didn’t require you be a Trekkie to get them. In my opinion, they were there to let ‘outsiders’ feel like they got the in-jokes to draw them into his new franchise. I felt he did a much better job this time. Because I was groaning and chuckling in admonishment at Han for mentioning the trash compactor, not JJ for including it. The way you you would react to an old friend making a joke about your third grade teacher. Because we were there in that trash compactor with him. That old story Han tells about the time he tried to escape through a trash chute only to be saved at the last second by an adorable droid is our story. So is it a lean on the fourth wall to wink at the audience? Yes. But as a friend and travel companion. Not as fan-service.