The movie, a reboot of the original series, picks up some 30 years after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” and includes cameos from Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
They played lead characters Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia respectively in the original series. They help create some continuity with the old films. But the new film stars two relatively unknown actors.
Daisy Ridley plays scavenger Rey on the desert planet Jakku. John Boyega plays Finn, a redeemed First Order storm trooper.
The movie also stars Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew and Max von Sydow.
The film premiered in Los Angeles at the TCL Chinese Theatre, El Capitan Theatre and Dolby Theatre this week (Dec 14) and is set to be released nationwide this weekend.
The overwhelming consensus among critics is a big thumbs up. The movie scored a 97 rating on review tracker rottentomatoes.com. It also scored an 82 rating based on 40 reviews on metacritic,.
Director J.J. Abrams is getting most of the credit for directing a fast-paced film that keep things moving but doesn’t lose viewers in a miss-mash of special effects. But the film’s strength is also its weakness.
While critics rave that Abrams has captured the magic of the best films from the original series, those who panned the film found it stale, unimaginative and too much of a rip off of old characters and plots. “A glib facsimile,” wrote one critic.
“[Abrams] has made an adoring copy of ‘Star Wars,’ seeking to correct its perceived flaws, without understanding that nothing about that movie’s context or meaning or enormous cultural impact can be duplicated,” wrote naysayer Andrew O’Hehir for salon.com.
Added Scott Mendelson of Forbes magazine: “It is not a little disheartening to see this new ‘Star Wars’ installment not blazing its own path but rather chasing its tail and rehashing its former glories for our approval.”
Among dissenters, Time magazine’s Stephanie Zacharek dissects the fundamental flaw in the movie. “When you’ve been charged with reviving one of the most obsessively beloved franchises in modern movies, is it better to defy expectations or to meet them?” she writes.
“With ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens,’ J.J. Abrams splits the difference, and the movie suffers—in the end; it’s perfectly adequate, hitting every beat. But why settle for adequacy?” she added.
The movie, writes Roger Moore, of movienation, “boils down to a couple of genuine lump-in-the-throat moments, and those are due to nostalgia. The rest? Seen it, done it, been there, and remember it — even though it was ‘a long time ago.'”
Naysayers might be accused of over-analyzing the film. Positive reviewers, on the other hand, took the film at face value. They loved its throwback feel, swashbuckling action and schmaltzy moments.
Perhaps, best summarizing that sentiment, Brian Truitt wrote in USA Today: “The Force Awakens reveals surprising connections, begins a few bromances, solves mysteries while digging up others, and sets a strong tone for what comes next in ‘Star Wars’ lore. Best of all? It’ll make you feel like a kid being introduced to something truly special once again.”
The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis adds: “Mr. Abrams may be as worshipful as any Star Wars obsessive, but in The Force Awakens he’s made a movie that goes for old-fashioned escapism even as it presents a futuristic vision of a pluralistic world that his audience already lives in. He hasn’t made a film only for true believers; he has made a film for everyone (well, almost).”
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” may not break a lot of new ground, but it’s an action-packed thrill ride that’s escapist and lots of fun. Isn’t that what blockbuster movies are supposed to be?
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