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Keene State Students Say New Star Wars Movie Out of this World

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Returning to the galaxy known as Keene State College after the semester break, students continue to sing the praises of The Force Awakens, the seventh and latest installment in the Star Wars saga.

Following the release of the first trailer in mid-October, students counted down the days until the movie’s release on Dec. 18. Connor Vail, a film production major from Franklin, MA, didn’t waste any time going right to the theatre after leaving campus at the end of the semester. “I had everything packed in my car and drove straight to the theatre,” he said. “I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I loved it ever since I was 10 and saw the first film. I was so over-the-top excited I couldn’t speak for days afterwards.”

Disappointed with the prequels that followed the release of Return of the Jedi in 1983, Matt Bilodeau, a junior film criticism major from Manchester, NH, and resident movie critic for KSC newspaper the Equinox, said the movie was worth the wait. “After Return of the Jedi, we waited for the true Star Wars sequel,” said Bilodeau, who is also president of the Keene State Film Society. “We thought we were getting those with the prequels, but I didn’t feel the same Star Wars magic.”

Students weren’t the only ones looking forward to the movie. Tom Cook, a professor in the College’s Film department, also got caught up in the film frenzy. He said there were several reasons for the big build-up, including the long anticipation and the nostalgic feeling by fans who grew up with the first film. “I don’t know of a generation that wasn’t anxious to see the movie,” he said.

Setting numerous box office records, including the fastest film to gross $1 billon dollars (12 days) and the highest grossing film all-time in the US and Canada, The Force Awakens has not only made cash registers ring, but has something to satisfy all fans. The story line, the special effects, not to mention the incorporation of old and new characters, served as a welcoming homecoming, returning the film to its core with its sense of possibility, optimism and hope.

Bilodeau, who gave the movie an A- in his blog (Movie Matt’s Movie Reviews) and in the Equinox, said he enjoyed the story, cinematography, and the introduction of the villain character Kylo Ren, while film production major Connor Morrell cited the sound, including the distinct slicing of the lightsabers and the bang of the blasters as well as John Williams’s score for keeping him spellbound. Daniel McAuliffe, a senior film production major from Londonderry, NH, said he enjoyed the overall pacing of the movie. “I never felt bored,” he said. “Everything that happened was a vehicle to help it get to the next point.”

Cook wore two hats to the movie, one as a fan and the other as a critic. “As a fan I loved it,” he said. “As a critic, I thought it was a little derivative (i.e.: the quick introduction of new characters Rey and Finn), but still great fun. But when it makes a billion dollars in the first month, nobody is asking me for my opinion.”

Cook, who gave the movie an eight on a scale of 1–10, said he enjoyed the escapism provided by the film and the chance to return to the Star Wars universe. “It’s been a long time since a movie like this has unified the audience,” he added. “No pun intended—we were there to see all of our friends back in a unifying force for a fun time.”

Still a force at the box office, The Force Awakens delivers a massive victory for the franchise that would make any storm trooper proud. According to reports, the next Star Wars installment (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) will be coming out in December 2016. “I can’t wait to see what happens next,” said Vail. “There is so much coming down the pipeline. Disney has the money and the clout to do that. It’s such a great time to be a Star Wars fan. This is a whole new start for the franchise.”

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