Let’s just cut to the chase: The Force Awakens is a pretty good Star Wars movie.
Some are saying great, but I’m not sure if a single viewing is enough. (And I don’t do rankings, because that’s tedious.) But the important thing, for our purposes, is that I enjoyed it.
Granted, I’m an easy mark for this one. I’ve been a Star Wars fan for both the special editions and the prequels – I waited in those lines. (Briefly.) But I never approached any of them with anything beyond idle curiosity. They were not a cornerstone of my personal fandom. The Force Awakens is the first brand-new Star Wars film that’s actually important to me. The first film where I was actually a little scared to watch, because what if I don’t like it?
In the theater, none of that mattered.
UPDATE: Please do not leave spoilers in the comments of the review. We have a special discussion post for that sort of thing!
I spent the first minutes with a constant refrain of ‘THIS IS A BRAND NEW STAR WARS MOVIE’ in my head. And this was after having read a fair share of spoilers. That’s happened before – I’m pretty sure I smirked through my first viewing of Revenge of the Sith. Smirked! But this time, I couldn’t stop smiling.
Several big questions are more than answered, though we’ll still have plenty to debate over the next few years. One is practically anviled, which was a bit of a shock after all these years of secrecy. But with others, some may find that they’ve been barking up the wrong tree. (My most bratty reaction will have to wait – it’s a fairly minor point, and I’ll make my peace with it in time.)
This may be the out-and-out funniest Star Wars film in a long time. It’s not a comedy by any means, but those moments are well-timed and in-character. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) particularly knock it out of the park. BB-8 is alternately adorable, funny and sad.
Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is distinctly not funny, but he’s intriguing. I want to know how he got to this point, and you will too. If anything, Ren is the third part of the character triangle. Not that Poe is insignificant, but his emotional buy-in pales in comparison. His hair is fantastic, though!
Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) were great. I am overcome by their awesomeness. Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) is very intriguing – the “eye” talk is one we’ll still be puzzling over for the duration. There’s a real twister of a sequence for Rey that defies all expectations, and you may be surprised by what prompts it. Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, on the other hand, may actually have less screentime than Boba Fett. (But yes, the film does pass the Bechdal test!)
Some things feel too broad – the very last shot in particular felt like it went on far too long. (Holding for applause?) I need to see the final lightsaber battle again, because I feel like I may have missed something. But these are minor quibbles.
Is it perfect? Maybe not: It’s still a Star Wars movie, and perfection has never been on the menu. And the more we all see it, the more we’ll nitpick. But The Force Awakens is fun, epic and, above all, delightful. And isn’t that what matters?
It’s been a long three years of speculation, rumors. and worrying, but in the end, it was worth it. I can’t wait to see it again.
Note: A press screening invitation was provided by Disney and Lucasfilm.