Thursday, December 17, 2015

Critics Talk about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

I've been reading the reviews of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."  The movie's official opening is tomorrow, but there have been showings for the film press, showings for charitable contributors and a huge, lavish showing for Hollywood celebrities.

Virtually very critic notes that the prequel trilogy (released after the first one) was very unfortunate and that this third one is much better.  To the extent there are reservations, they seem to involve whether this new trilogy is new enough.

There have been many cautions against giving away plot elements, but plenty has been leaked.  I will say this much:  Older characters from the first SW trilogy have been paired with new young ones who presumably will carry the next two sequels.  All are united to solve a mystery and battle bad guys.  This Disney release has been carefully engineered to maximize the longevity and financial prospects of the SW franchise.

Here are bits from some reviews:

Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter

"The Force is back. Big time. As the best Star Wars anything — film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have-you — in at least 32 years, 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' pumps new energy and life into a hallowed franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. But whereas the fundamental touchstones of George Lucas' original creation remain, in director J.J. Abrams' hands there is a shift in tone that brings the material closer to the feel of a Steven Spielberg film."

Old Talent

Kyle Smith of the New York Post:

"I suppose the last thing you want to hear at a Rolling Stones concert is, 'Ladies and gentlemen, here’s two hours of entirely new material!' Even so, the shamelessness with which “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” replays the franchise’s greatest hits is startling. To put it another way, it’s a satisfying meal — but it’s $200 million worth of leftovers.

"Writer-director J.J. Abrams has done an honorable job and steered things away from the those horrid prequels. The Force Awakens feels like a genuine Star Wars movie, with well-executed battle scenes, light comic touches and a warm feel for its characters.

"Yet right about the time I was thinking, “Surely they’d never trot out another Death Star,” they trotted out another Death Star. There’s also another  . . . .

 "Competently running through the classics counts as a victory after 'Attack of the Phantom Sith,' but now that Star Wars has steered away from the Dark Side, the next episode is bound to be more interesting than this one. Let’s just say I have a new hope."


Peter Bradshaw, in a five-star review for the U.K.'s Independent:

"The Force Awakens re-awoke my love of the first movie and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. There are very few films which leave me facially exhausted after grinning for 135 minutes, but this is one. And when Han Solo and Chewie come on, I had a feeling in the cinema I haven’t had since I was 16: not knowing whether to burst into tears or into applause."


Bryan Bishop of The Verge:

"The impact of writer Lawrence Kasdan in all of this can’t be overstated. If George Lucas is the originator of the Star Wars universe, Kasdan is the creative force that refined it into its purest form. Kasdan came on to rewrite The Empire Strikes Back after its original writer died, but went on to co-write Return of the Jedi while also tackling movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark before transitioning into his own directing career. Nobody has ever written Han Solo, Leia, or Chewbacca the way Kasdan has — he arguably captured the definitive takes on the characters in Empire — and the minute they appear on screen, it’s clear Kasdan has tapped into the same sense of raucous and rebellious fun he did so many years ago."


Justin Chang ofVariety takes a somewhat dimmer view:

"Still, the reassuring familiarity of (director J. J.) Abrams’ approach has its limitations: Marvelous as it is to catch up with Han Solo, Leia and the rest of the gang, fan service takes priority here over a somewhat thin, derivative story that, despite the presence of two appealing new stars, doesn’t exactly fire the imagination anew."

New Talent


Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal:

"So much for deadly prequels. Star Wars is once again in sequel mode—it’s been so long since the original cast has been on screen that this one could be called a postquel—and the franchise has roared back with full force."

Morgenstern then gives away a bunch of plot points that I will not share, and concludes with this:

"Just go see it.  You'll love it."

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