It is 04h00 am here in London and I just arrived after a first viewing of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Before I get some sleep prior to our second viewing tomorrow afternoon I want to share with you a first, entirely spoiler-free, review.The Force Awakens is a thoroughly entertaining movie that will without doubt find a good place within the, now, 7-film Star Wars canon. Let me talk you through a couple of positives, a couple of negatives and some final remarks.
The absolute highlight of this film is Rey, Daisy Ridley’s performance and her story-arc. Rey’s story is credible, well-written her character is charming, witty and strong. The dilemma’s she faces are well-considered and sufficiently deep for a newly introduced character. Poe and Finn are great characters too. Poe is indeed the self-confident swashbuckler with a good heart and less of an edgy side than Han in the Originals. Finn is in many ways as much a heroic character as he is a comic relief character. His charming clumsiness reminds one of another beloved comedy character in Star Wars albeit without any slapstick. BB-8 is a wonderful addition to the Star Wars Universe and he responds and mixes really well with the other main characters. General Hux is truly menacing with his fascistoid manners and played very convincingly. Kylo Renn is an interesting character whose psychological make-up contains interesting weaknesses and ambiguities. Han Solo is well-written and has an arc that is as satisfying as Finn’s or Poe’s. Maz Kanata is a good and very promising new character albeit no Yoda yet!
Finally the visualization of the story is gorgeous in practically all scenes. There is never a dull moment and camera-angles are often interesting and typically very supportive of the overall narrative.
Kasdan and Abrams are lazy story-tellers. Almost all characters, except Finn and Rey, have significant off-screen action. The authors have clearly fallen into a few of the traps that the EU would consistently fall into regarding badly written super-weapons demonstrations. The carelessness with which some story-lines are simply left dangling is puzzling as there seems to be no really good reason for it. Leia and Phasma could have been developed better and Snoke is not yet impressive as a narrative device or as a character.
Despite the gorgeous visualizations, the visual story-telling is fairly thin. Discrepancies between story-time and ‘theatre-time’ towards the end of the film are not very disturbing but a little annoying anyway.
The Force Awakens is a very entertaining film that definitely will reward multiple viewing. Rey is an outstanding new character and Finn and Poe are also highly interesting and entertaining. It will be great to see where these characters will take us in Episodes VIII and IX. I will be very interested to see how my first impression changes after multiple viewings.
My Quality-Ordering of Star Wars Movies
From best to least-best: III, V, VI, I,VII, II, IV.