I should mention that while I will refrain from spoiling anything important, the very nature of reviews means that you will have SOME information that you did not have before. If you don’t want that, don’t read this review. Go see the movie first, and then come back. Also please avoid spoilers in comments of this post so that you don’t ruin it for someone else. Thanks.
I’ll start by saying what pretty much every review has said that I have seen. You can stop worrying. It’s good. It’s better than the prequels. Yes, even that one you don’t remember as being that bad.
Now, that out of the way, let’s talk about it. It seems to me that Disney’s primary objective with this film is to prove to fans that they will not make the same mistakes Lucas did with the prequels. They wanted people to believe in Star Wars again (films, that is, people have been praising and buying other Star Wars properties like video games for years), and they wanted to show that they had what it takes to bring the series back to its old glory. This is obvious without even walking into the theater. They returned to practical effects, they brought back the old actors, they wanted this movie to say to people before they even saw it “this is Star Wars again! Please, believe us!” And it worked. In fact, I realized when I was walking into the theater on Saturday that the reason I was so excited about this film and also so afraid of spoilers was that it was the first film in a long time that I was this invested in (because it was Star Wars and had the old cast and practical effects, and it really looked good), and yet… I had no idea what was going to happen. That’s almost never the case. The movies I really care about (Comic book movies, movies based on novels I like, Star Wars movies even) I typically go into with some foreknowledge. Even Marvel movies are pretty much taken from comic story lines, so while I may not know EXACTLY what is going to happen, I have a pretty good idea, because I know the source material. With The Force Awakens I had no idea what was going to happen, except that I felt pretty sure it was going to be good. And it was.
A lot of the reason it was good actually DOESN’T have to do with the old cast. Don’t get me wrong. They have some GREAT scenes, and it was amazing to see them again, but they were pretty much there to crank up the nostalgia factor for fans, and boy did they do THAT. In fact, this movie is all about Star Wars nostalgia, but I digress. The NEW cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, and Adam Driver are marvelous in their roles. Ridley, especially, makes me LOVE her character, who I will say right now is one of the best written female characters in sci-fi. Especially in Star Wars, which has a notable lack of female characters on film. I will talk more about all of these characters in a later, much more spoiler-y review (I’m seeing the film again on Monday, so I am going to wait to write that until my second viewing, when I will almost certainly pick up some new things). For now, let me just say that the new cast does a great job creating these new interesting characters, and the old guard are great to see, but they also do a good job of staying out of the way so the new generation can shine. Oh sure, they get their moments, but Disney is trying to relaunch the franchise with this new generation, and that is very clear in the movie, as it should be.
In addition to the characters and cast, everything else about this movie screams Star Wars, too. The return to practical effects does wonders for making this look and feel like Star Wars, and, most importantly, ensure that this film will look great for future generations in a way that the prequels just won’t. The only problem is that the presence of practical effects does make the few CGI effects much more obvious. It’s not a huge deal, but it is something that I noticed while watching and took note of. Additionally, the story does more to capture the tone and imagination of Star Wars than any of the prequels ever did, but I can’t talk about why without spoiling, so I will save an in-depth analysis of that for the next post. The film also just sounds great. Of course, the first chord of John Williams’ score got my heart beating with excitement, but even the sound effects are suburb here. It make me remember just how good Star Wars should sound. It seems that everything to do with this movie: casting, effects, story, and sound are a specially-designed tactical nuke programmed to hit Star Wars fans in their nostalgia centers, and it works! I am NOT unbiased in my watching of this film, and I think it is impossible for me to be, so take that as you will.
Overall, this film is fun, exciting, funny, and cool. It’s Star Wars. Go see it!