Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)
Critic Consensus: Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.
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as Kylo Ren
as Han Solo
as Princess Leia
as Luke Skywalker
as Captain Phasma
as Poe Dameron
as Maz Kanata
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Critic Reviews for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
It's both nostalgic and fresh, a tender homage to, especially, the initial Star Wars ("Episode IV: A New Hope"), as well as a bridge to help those of us stuck in the splendor of Hoth edge into the future.
Despite the copious servings of tragic threats and good feelings, the production sinks under the weight of its emotional calculation.
The new movie, as an act of pure storytelling, streams by with fluency and zip.
That's what's so impressive about the tricky balancing act Abrams has pulled off with The Force Awakens: He's made a movie that's simultaneously gripping and a huge release. We are in good hands, at last.
With The Force Awakens, Abrams has begun one of the most important reclamation projects of our time: the complete erasure from cultural memory of The Phantom Menace and its sequels.
Audience Reviews for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
"That is not dead which can eternal lie" - the immortal line from H. P. Lovecraft's The Call of Cthulhu, which has increasingly become the mantra of Hollywood executives. The seemingly endless wave of remakes, reboots, re-imaginings and redundant sequels was bound to hit the Star Wars franchise sooner or later. It took less than ten years after Revenge of the Sith brought the ghastly prequel saga to a sorry conclusion for the powers-to-be (in this case Disney) to decide that audiences would be ready for another instalment or three. Disney's acquisition of Star Wars from George Lucas, coupled with the involvement of J. J. Abrams, gave the sci-fi community and the film-going public reason to have positive expectations about this series again. Having already convinced themselves, like long-suffering Highlander fans, that things at least couldn't get any worse, the hype steadily grew as the old cast members returned and more and more details were affectionately teased. It seemed as though everyone was pinning their hopes on this film working, as though it was the last great hope that Star Wars could one day be good again. Sadly, that last great hope has ended up as just another version of A New Hope, leaving us dazzled by the modern visuals but otherwise disappointed. It's true that I was initially dismissive of Disney's decision to buy Star Wars, back in the days when I regularly wrote for WhatCulture!. It's also true that I have never been the biggest fan of Abrams, branding him "the master of hype" and "our generation's Wizard of Oz", who is capable of making flashy, tempting trailers but less capable at telling original stories. But as someone who looks upon the originals fondly - or at least acknowledges their deserved place in cinema history - I still count myself among those wanting this to be good, rather than hoping that it would fail outright. The single biggest problem with The Force Awakens is how desperately and despairingly unoriginal it is. It's positively flabbergasting how a film like this can be hailed as a masterpiece when it feels for all the world like watching a bunch of children dressing up and re-enacting their version of A New Hope. The toys may be faster, and the Death Star-that's-not-but-actually-is might be bigger, but it's still essentially A New Hope with modern-day editing. Whether you look at A New Hope as a Star Wars film or as a love letter to adventure stories, it still holds up well enough (for all its problems) to make this feel immediately superfluous. I will give Abrams some credit, in that it is one of his better behaved efforts in terms of the camerawork. There is less of the irritating lens flare that there was on Star Trek or Super 8, and the action sequences don't look like they were assembled purely for the basis of making the trailer look exciting. But that being said, it's clear that the two 'Trek films he made were essentially just practice for this. The lightspeed sequences here are almost identical to the hyperspace sequences from Star Trek Into Darkness. The presence of the older cast warrants a further comparison with 'Trek. There's a conscious effort here to bring back the original actors to give the project their blessing and pass the torch, just as in Star Trek Generations or certain episodes of The Next Generation TV series. There are some lovely moments here: the chats between Han Solo and Leia are the film's most human and emotional parts, and Mark Hamill's appearance, like an exiled King Arthur having Excalibur returned, is a nice touch. But their presence only serves to remind us how good the originals were, and adds doubt as to whether the new blood are good enough to hold things up on their own. The Force Awakens is massively derivative from the outset, both in the general movements of its plot and its specific details. Jakku is just Tatooine by any other name, BB8 is R2-D2, the plans for Luke's home are the plans for the Death Star - even the early deaths are a straight lift from Anakin's vengeful slaughter in Attack of the Clones. It scores out over that film by at least pretending to break from the mould, rather than insulting our intelligence by trying to argue that everything fits in with the existing canon. But it's ironic that a film which claims to break with the Star Wars Extended Universe has ended up borrowing so nakedly from its forebears. Not only are we in overly familiar territory, but The Force Awakens has moments where it is very unsure of itself. There are at least two occasions in the script where a dramatic situation is defused by the characters stopping to take the piss out of themselves, and both times it feels forced and underwhelming. You can't build up something as serious or significant, then slip into Spaceballs, and then back again as if nothing happened. It undercuts the stakes of the drama in a very jarring manner. Then there is the plot to consider. On top of its overt resemblance to (and invocation of) A New Hope, The Force Awakens has several moments of narrative carelessness. The biggest one is the scene with Darth Vader's helmet; we don't get any explanation as to how Kylo Ren got it, or how it survived being incinerated at the end of Return of the Jedi, it's just foisted upon us because it's a dramatic image. Additionally, the film makes us feel like Poe is dead less than 30 minutes in, and then provides no explanation for his survival when he turns up again. The original trilogy had plot problems too, but at least the big stuff was explained away sufficiently to maintain our suspension of disbelief. This lack of complete care translates into the character construction as well. Rey as a character is a welcome addition to the franchise; Daisy Ridley makes the character fun and appealing, her interplay with Finn is amusing and well-written, and she is undisputedly the lead for two thirds of her screentime. But having started on so strong a footing, the filmmakers chicken out about halfway through and turn her into a damsel in distress whom Finn has to rescue. It's all well and good that Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan wanted to make Star Wars more diverse and equal ops, but surely the more interesting angle would be for Rey to use the Force to rescue Finn? The character disappointment also seeps through into the villains, which range from good to bafflingly timid. At the good end, we have General Hux; Domhnall Gleeson gives a committed and ambitious performance, believably conveying someone who is power mad and intimidating. In the middle is Snoke, realised by Andy Serkis; it's fine, though at this stage it's little more than Palpatine's appearance in The Empire Strikes Back with snazzier graphics. And then, at the bad end, we have Kylo Ren, who is little short of pitiful as a villain. As much as the trailers tried to make him threatening, he's ultimately just Darth Helmet, trying to be all big and terrifying but coming across as anything but. As Sylvester Stallone found out in Judge Dredd, walking around with a bucket on your head stops being scary if you're just going to keep taking it off. In the climactic lightsaber duel in the snow, his long hair and gormless expression may him look like a wetter, less capable version of Prince Caspian from The Chronicles of Narnia, and the film's attempts to set up daddy issues with Luke feel very half-baked. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens is a disappointing and derivative start to the new Star Wars trilogy. It cuts the mustard as two hours of empty popcorn fun, and it is slightly better written than Revenge of the Sith, but after all the hype and promise it needed to be a whole lot better. The involvement of Looper director Rian Johnson in the upcoming Episode VIII does leave some cause for hope, just as The Empire Strikes Back managed to improve by having a different director. But putting that and Rogue One out of our minds for a moment, this film remains staggeringly mediocre.
Watched under protest. I'm really not a fan of these movies. It's big budget and fans will love it, but I was bored.
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