I will keep this simple. I loved this film. Within the first 20 minutes I was swept up by the continuation of Star Wars. I had fallen in love with a droid, found the First Order menacing, was on board with the fun, enjoying the action and rooting for the heroes who had been introduced to us.
It’s a film that has to balance a lot–the establishing of a galaxy that has moved on since ‘Return of the Jedi’, returning our original heroes to us, giving us new ones, and establishing a host of villains and the motivations for the First Order and the Resistance, and it does this with characterisation, cements natural relationships which I cared about, offers plenty of fan service and hangs it all on an engaging, if quite familiar main story–and even dares to take a major risk with the fans.
While the previous six films gave us the Emperor–possibly the best villain–and became the story of Anakin Skywalker’s descent into becoming Darth Vader and his redemption, this single film gave us it’s most successfully portrayed complex, conflicted, and frightening villains.
The only disappointment I experienced came from two CGI characters and the portrayal of the First Order. In a film which gives us so many practical effects, real world locations and sets, and CGI action that seemed tangibly real, the soft plasticine look of the CGI faces was jarring. That being said, the disconnect was momentary and in no way detracted from what had been delivered. The First Order may as well have had the swastika as it’s new emblem–a military rally, a shouty speech, and a Nazi style salute was all a bit too much and took me away from the fantasy escapism galaxy the films usually deliver. Again though, easy to gloss over when everything that surrounds it is so good!
I think critics–and the fans when the hype has settled down and the inner child comes down from the wish fulfillment–may well criticise the main plot for being a retread of a proven Star Wars story formula, but I think it worked for this film as it avoided bogging the story down with a heavy plot and gave room to establish the characters and the direction of the series. Writing of hype, I’ve loved all the movies, prequels and the altered special editions, but when the dust settled after the excitement of the prequels giving us new movies and the CGI of the specials aged and came to be intrusive and made my favourite movies less familiar, I’ve become one of those middle-aged staunch original trilogy supporters yearning for the originals. That being said, I can’t imagine this will happen to ‘The Force Awakens’, it stands with the originals for me–the magic is back. The franchise has now been set up to continue like it never has before, and I’m excited to see where Star Wars takes me and my inner child next.