In short: Yes! Hell yes! Star Wars is back, ladies and gentlemen and The Force Awakens is a jolt of energy to the franchise and a triumph for everyone involved. What will follow is a brief review of what matters to one hardcore old school Star Wars fan.
The new characters are wonderful and exciting and while I had some fears about their acting or the characters themselves, I was proved wrong by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and especially Adam Driver who steals the show as Kylo Ren. Many have praised his acting and I agree: In fact, all of the new actors brought such strong emotion to their characters that I can't wait to see evolve in this universe we all love so adoringly. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega have great chemistry and I want to know more about Poe Dameron, Captain Phasma and especially Supreme Leader Snoke. It was great to see the old cast as well and nothing felt forced or contrived, despite the 30 year gap. Han Solo was the standout legacy character, having fun and cracking jokes and just being Han Solo again.
The effects were amazing and I loved how much practical effects were used, no matter how much Disney told us they were being used. The sets felt like a JJ Abrams movie than a Star Wars movie but I was okay with that. It still felt like a Star Wars movie. It also didn't feel like a Disney movie. Maz Kanata was a big fear of mine and surprisingly, the character worked out very well, however she seemed to literally disappear during a major sequence and a quick shot, explaining where she went would have been a better choice.
There are a few major events that unfold in this movie and it was great hearing the audience react and while I basically knew most of the story (thanks to my inability to avoid spoilers) I was surprised by a couple myself. As a Star Wars movie should be, the story moved at a good pace and things flowed well, keeping my interest, except for one scene in a freighter. Lightsaber fights were well done and not overused, not to mention seeing the Millennium Falcon flying around, which put a big fat, stupid grin on my face – even more so than seeing the crawl.
Now onto what I didn't like and I seem to be on the same page as most reviewers out there. First off, I didn't like the freighter scene and the monster in it. One would think that in a movie that promoted so much use practical effects that they would've either used a puppet or toned down the monster. I could be wrong but the scene felt off to me.
Other small issues I had were the under use of Captain Phasma, although I suspect they're purposely making her more of a Boba Fett character who still has unfinished business with Finn. If this movie is supposed to mirror a New Hope, then the others will resemble Empire and Jedi, respectively.
It really didn't bother me because I know the next movie will be darker and possibly give Phasma a chance to shine.
George Lucas, himself has said that these stories were intended to rhyme like poetry, granted he said that during production of one of the prequels but the standard holds true with the movie. In terms of tone and overall story, I expect Episode VIII to seem similar to Empire Strikes Back and IX to be a lot like Return of the Jedi.
Supreme Leader Snoke had little screen time too but it makes more sense if he's the one pulling the strings. I don’t think I’m alone when I sighed a sigh of relief when his hologram flickered, proving he wasn’t a giant. I’m going to go ahead and call it now – I think he’s a very small person who is making it seem like he is larrger than life. There's a scene reminiscent of the cantina from A New Hope and while it was interesting, I would've liked to see more familiar aliens and not just new ones. There were some things that were predictable even if you haven't read any spoilers, but how they play out is a different story.
A lot of people have expressed their disinterest for the Starkiller base and how it’s basically a new Death Star. I didn’t mind it…too much. It felt like more of a backdrop for, or even an excuse to have a battle in space. Since it wasn’t the main focus like the Death Star was in Episode IV, I’m not focusing on it too much. I also realize that the prequels had too much politics and that’s something JJ probably wanted to stay away from, and rightfully so, but if they just had a little bit more of an explanation why they blew up those planets or even told us its name because at first, I thought it was Coruscant…but it wasn’t. It was the Hosnian system. Apparently the Senate moves around and was not on Coruscant at the time of TFA. I just wanted a little more explanation regarding that.
I have now seen TFA twice and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time. Since I read almost every spoiler report and saw every bit of concept art, when I was waiting for the movie to come out, I was waiting for every event and hoping that it was as good as what I had read. When watching it the second time, I simply let the art flow over me and enjoyed seeing a new Star Wars movie that didn’t suck. I even got a little emotional during that last scene with Luke, despite me knowing it was coming.
All in all, it felt like a return to the Star Wars we all remember and the care, love and attention by JJ and company really showed. The new cast is set up to take over the franchise and I can't wait to see where they take it. I am now more convinced that the new cast will be worthy characters in the Star Wars saga. The Force Awakens is a movie that must be experienced and not studied or picked apart. Sit back and enjoy the ride! Star Wars is back and is fun again. Go see this movie and I dare you to not see it again!