I know this review is a bit late, but I wanted to take time and reflect on this movie. I know nothing—nothing—will match the thrill of seeing Star Wars in the theater with my friend Jeff the day it came out on May 25, 1977. I was 12 years old (thirteen a few months later) and knew nothing about this movie. I wasn’t anticipating it, we had no idea what was coming or the phenomenon it would spawn. It just looked like a cool sci-fi flick. I probably saw it eight times in the next year it stayed put at the local cinema. I’ve seen it countless times since then. I make no claim Star Wars is the best movie ever made, or deserved the Oscar that year for Best Picture (Annie Hall won). But to a twelve-year-old sci-fi nut, cinematic experiences never got better than that night.
I enjoyed The Empire Strikes Back almost as much. So many cool moments in that movie. Return of the Jedi was sad and cute, and by that time I had discovered girls anyway. Years later when Lucas did the second trilogy, I enjoyed them, but not with the missionary fervor with which I loved Star Wars. My biggest question for the second trilogy was, “Did it feel like Star Wars?” With some reservations, I thought yes.
Now a new creative team has brought us Star Wars: The Force Awakens. My thoughts? I liked it. Did it feel like Star Wars? Ehhh ... yeah, a little.
Director J.J. Abrams knows special effects, but is incapable of telling a story. He lives for the action scenes, the space battles, the conflict. The stuff in the middle is just boring filler to take up time between battle sequences. Story or character development? Let TV do that. He’s in it for the explosions. He’s true to form here, as many of the plot developments made no sense. Why does one Stormtrooper defect? He’s the only unhappy soldier in the army? How can a tomboy beanpole hold her own in a swordfight with someone who has trained for years? Why does Kylo Ren demand respect when he’s a whiny, murderous Millennial?
Despite those plot holes, the action and effect shots were stunning. I liked, but didn’t love, the new cast members. Poe shows the most promise, but didn’t get a lot of screen time. All Finn (John Boyega) did was sweat a lot and run away from danger, but redeemed himself a bit in the end. Daisy Ridley as Rey was bland, coming off as a less talented and less pretty Keira Knightley. Who’s daughter is she? Who cares? She should go on a vision quest with Yoda to search for a personality. But seeing the old cast (literally) was fantastic. Harrison Ford still has charm to spare, Carrie Fisher looked great and Leia’s place in the movie was a natural and believable transition for the character. And it was great to see beardy Mark Hamill as Luke. He should have had a bigger role, but I guess we have the next film in the series for that.
I really didn’t expect much from Abrams and crew, but to get a coherent, watchable movie (especially after ruining Star Trek for modern generations) was a pleasant surprise. A solid three stars, and I look forward to more in the series.