This review is spoiler free.
I’ve been out of the theater for about two hours now. All that build up, all that waiting, all that wondering… will it be good? Is it Star Wars? Can we dare hope?
Rest easy. The Star Wars: The Force Awakens is good, even great at times. Han Solo says “we’re home” in the trailer, and I think for the most part that’s correct.
Does it reach the Joseph Campbell mythic journey heights of the original trilogy? Will it smash in to pop culture the way that A New Hope did? Only time well tell, although my first reaction is it doesn’t quite hit that point.
Let’s also keep in mind that no movie, no matter how great, can match the hype and expectation that The Force Awakens has had heaped on it. The original Star Wars: A New Hope couldn’t live up to the hype. No movie could. It’s already blown away ticket sales records before it even opened for goodness sake! Having said that…
The shoulders of The Force Awakens are strong, far stronger than The Phantom Menace. It carries the weight of the Star Wars universe effortlessly and there’s no forcing yourself to accept it as Star Wars because you’re a fan. It’s Star Wars right out of the gate, right from the text of the opening crawl.
It looks like Star Wars. It sounds like Star Wars. It feels like Star Wars. It’s fun like Star Wars.
The actors, and therefore the characters, have chemistry. For me this is a really important point. It’s something that the prequels lacked in spades, only seeming to find it in Revenge of the Sith, and even then Anakin and Padme still lacked it.
It’s also exciting and refreshing to see beloved characters and Star Wars icons such as stormtroopers, TIE fighters and X-Wings even if they might be slightly updated (or older, in the case of the characters). To be honest it actually made more of a difference than I would have thought, as I went in thinking that The Force Awakens would live or die by the story and the chemistry alone. But no, so great to see marching troopers, dog fighting fighters and that fantastic sleek black and red Imperial interior design.
For the story itself, it didn’t play out the way I had put together in my head from the trailers (this, in Shane’s world, is a good thing). It flowed well and I only have a true beef with one main plot point (a really big one) that I won’t get into here but may revisit later once it’s cool to get into spoilers. The beef is along the lines of “again?” but… that’s as far as I go at this point. In general there were many intense moments, great action scenes, some laughs and all around decent writing and dialogue.
Rhythm-wise, it had a very strong first act, a second act that was good but that bogged down just a bit, a tad mind you for maybe 10 minutes, and a third act that kicked back up again quite nicely thank you very much.
Other non-spoilery things:
I really, really liked BB-8. I feel like they 100% created a great new Star Wars character. It’s hard to have a droid folks will like as much as R2-D2 but they did it.
As mentioned above, several great action scenes plus that signature Star Wars humor.
The Millennium Falcon is in the house. Like, way up in the house.
My friend who watched The Force Awakens with me didn’t really like Kylo Ren. I rather did, felt Kylo was a good villain and not just a Vader clone. And that lightsaber, hoo boy it’s pretty cool. You’re also going to be treated to some force moves you definitely haven’t seen before.
Luke Skywalker. What’s the deal with Luke? Is he even in the movie? Muah ha ha ha ha, I know and I ain’t tellin’!
Get ready for at least one “oh, no they did not” moment.
Family again plays a very important role, as it should in Star Wars.
The actor for one major, returning character seemed to give a bit of a phone it in performance. Felt just a bit off.
I felt like we didn’t really get good insight into the structure of the galaxy’s culture and political makeup for a payoff of the ending of Return of the Jedi. That’s one area The Force Awakens seemed a bit uncertain of itself.
As recent headlines have announced, there is no mid-credits or post-credits bonus scene. I sat through them anyway because, you know, it’s Star Wars. I was the last dork out of the theater, literally. No bonus scene. Trust me.
There. No spoilers. As promised. It’s good. Very good. Out of 4 stars? 3.75 probably. Go see it. I know I will more than once while it’s in theaters. Set coordinates and make the jump.
One last observation: it feels kind of weird to see a new Star Wars movie in December instead of May. Star Wars has always kind of had an association of air conditioning on a hot day in some part of my mind.