I’ve gotten out of the habit of reviewing movies I think are really great. Spitting out a thousand words about how awesome you think something is just doesn’t suit me. And honestly I think that’s the case for a lot of reviewers; it’s just easier to trash something. But I am going to try and do it here. I loved this movie and it’s the best one I’ve seen this year.
Star Wars was the first movie I went to with my Dad, way back in 1977, and it’s been my first love with movies the way that Batman is my first love with Superheroes. I went on to see it multiple times along with the rest of the original trilogy. And I can say I haven’t felt the way I did coming out of a movie since, until now. I like all the Marvel stuff, can’t wait for Batman vs. Superman and all the DC stuff, but I’ve never be charged up for any of that the way I have for this. With the exception of The Dark Knight trilogy, I haven’t been as thrown for a loop by the twists and turns of a plot or the mere appearance of characters on the screen as I was here.
And it means even more in light of how the prequels disappointed. I remember going into The Phantom Menace with high expectations and coming out like ‘really?’ And then when Attack of the Clones came out I was hoping Lucas heard what people weren’t happy about and fixed it. Alas, not so. There was lots of good action throughout but the movie was bogged down with painful dialogue, bad acting, and some really bad attempts at portraying political intrigue. And then finally Revenge of the Sith, which had the best action of all the movies (including this one), but was still hindered by the dialogue and the acting. It was a good but not great movie overall that was graded on a curve because of the two films that preceded it.
So when I went into The Force Awakens, I was cautiously optimistic. Having heard good things from everyone I trust who saw it before me, I figured it would turn it ok. And it did far than that, it excelled. Did it have everything? Well, not quite. Here are few things that were definitely missing:
- Painful dialogue
- Wooden acting
- Forced Humor
- Hard to get through scenes
That alone puts it ahead of all the prequels. That’s the difference between having J.J. Abrams doing the story and directing as opposed to, dare I say it, George Lucas. Abrams went back to the old way of doing things, minus so much of the CGI that ruled the prequels. And I very much preferred that. For what they did here, models and live action was the way to go. If you’re going to do large scale stuff like in Episode III then I can see going heavy on CGI but they made the right call here. The casting was perfect and no one had a bad day here. The days of watching people know for good work (like Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman) sound like they’re reading cue cards are over, and thank God for that. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega were great as the leads, and Adam Driver did a great job as Kylo Ren. Most importantly they got you to believe in what was going on during the movie such that when a plot twist occurred you were genuinely surprised. This was an experience and not just a movie, and they all had something to do with it.
And there are some other things to note:
- Hats off to Harrison Ford: Ford, of course, was the breakout star of the original trilogy and the best actor of the bunch. And here, 38 years later, he brings it home again. Ford is one of the best actors of his generation and is unfairly left out of the conversation because he had the audacity to do mostly blockbusters. Coming back to this after all these years is a great victory lap to one of the most successful careers in Hollywood history. Can we get a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars or what?
- Trailer swerves – Without going into detail, the trailer does not tell the story. Just something to keep in mind when you try to figure out what’s going on in Batman vs Superman and Captain America: Civil War months before the movies are actually in the theater. ‘The trailer gave away the movie!’ is a common refrain nowadays with the advent of the trailer release as an event unto itself.
- Ignore the complaints – The thing I’ve heard the most is that the callbacks to the original trilogy were overdone, to the point that this is more like a remake than a new film unto itself. I can see where that view comes from but there were more than enough distinctions between what’s in The Force Awakens and the original work. Plus, as we know, there are more movies coming. Lines will be drawn and things will be explained. Let’s not act like this is the final form for everything.
So that’s the spoiler free version. Give me a week and I do a more detailed review with spoilers and all. Until, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!! Multiple times, like I plan on doing.
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW – I’m adding to this in January of 2019. After having watched it a bunch of times now, I do have to say that the final third of film does get a bit too derivative of the original. The killer space station, named Starkiller Base (an homage to the old Extended Universe novels), that needed to be disabled from the inside in order to taken from the outside as the final mission, was way too convenient and felt tacked on because they needed some kind of final boss for the movie and a reason to get Han in position to get killed by Kylo Ren, the other thing that hasn’t aged too well. It was a gut wrenching moment to be sure but it also denied us a reunion of the old gang all at once before Carrie Fisher’s passing. I understand not wanting to linger too much on the old cast but I feel like just one more brief time together after the passing of all those years would have been cool. So my final grade is good, sometimes great, but a little short of great overall. So something like 8 out of 10.