Friday, December 18, 2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. First Impressions
This isn't a pro forma review for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I did see it last night at 11:10, though that was not the intention. I had planned to see it next week to let the hoopla die down but a friend of mine told me he had a ticket. I agreed to go, and his plan worked excellently. The theater is a bit hidden, not highly used like the other chains around town. It helps that it's also in a pretty secluded part of town.
At the 11:20 screening, there were plenty of seats available and no one dressed up, two things that pleased me tremendously. I opted not to take any notes at this screening and watch it just as a fan. Here are my impressions.
Overall, The Force Awakens is a well-made, well-acted film. I can't fault it for that. Almost all the performances are good (except for one old-timer who was flat and maybe one whose character came across as a bit whiny with major CENSORED issues). It went through its running time at almost breakneck speed, going from point to point with hardly any pause. The stars of the first trilogy were actually relevant to the plot (a surprising turn given how badly Spock was used in both of the new Star Trek films).
If I had some problems with The Force Awakens (and yes, there were things I wasn't thrilled about), is that it plays like a repeat of Star Wars (or Star Wars: A New Hope if you prefer). It was as if I were watching a variation of a theme than a truly original movie. In many ways, it seems fitting that J.J. Abrams directed this. In Super 8, he imitated Steven Spielberg (and with the train crash, imitated Cecil B. DeMille). With Star Trek Into Darkness, it was essentially a remake of Wrath of Khan. Now, he's imitated George Lucas.
I wasn't sold on the comedy bits. One big problem for me was that all the big twists and shocking moments didn't come out naturally but were essentially told to us. We didn't get to discover that CENSORED, but instead were just told CENSORED. At least with the shocking surprise in The Empire Strikes Back, it comes out at the end, not in the middle. I also have points of logic that perhaps others could answer for me. However, that is for another time.
I hate sounding like I'm bashing someone, but Carrie Fisher looks more and more like her mother Debbie Reynolds every day (and given that Reynolds is in her eighties...). My friend said she has not aged well (I can only hope she doesn't don a slave outfit now).
The biggest surprise to me was at the end. Not that CENSORED, but the audience reaction. I was surprised at how muted it was. There was no applause, there was no loud cheering, there was no cheering, period. It was perfectly still. When I saw people leave previous screenings, there was no loud rush of excitement, no large grins. I heard people say they liked it, and I'm sure they did (I liked it). However, I didn't get a sense that people left excited or thrilled, that all their expectations were met. I don't think it had anything to do with the fact that I left at around 2 in the morning.
Was The Force Awakens good? Yes. Was it as epic and life-altering as Star Wars itself? Doubtful.
On the whole, I'm going to say that The Force Awakens is the fourth best Star Wars film, and leave it at that.
INITIAL DECISION: B-