Here it is, the long-awaited first sequel to the original trilogy which ended with Return of the Jedi. I was a whole week late and had to do my best to avoid spoilers on various channels.
I was really jittery when I bought the ticket and then sat down in the cinema. I had heard good things but was still unsure. The memory of The Phantom Menace was still clinging to my mind like Mynok snot.
My worries were completely unfounded.
The short review: The Force is strong with this one!
Now for the longer one:
Right from the beginning, The Force Awakens, feels right. A clandestine meeting where important information is traded and then the action starts: Stormtroopers arrive and actually prove themselves to be able to hit something.
From this point forward, tension and action never leave the movie, you always get at least one of the two. The new main characters, Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Renn and BB-8 are each introduced in their own way and very fittingly and they fill their roles perfectly. The only time they get eclipsed as the main characters of the story is when Han Solo and Chewbacca make their entrance. After all, who could steal the show from those two living legends?
The new locations introduced are reminiscent of places well known to fans but are only a reminder, a view that touches a memory. They are not cheap copies of something that worked once before. One thing that is unique about The Force Awakens is how it handles the Force and how people who are strong in the Force experience the universe, especially when other things connected to the Force are involved.
The Force Awakens adds a lot of depth to the Star Wars Universe. We now not only get a female lead that is actually vital in driving the plot, we have a non-white lead and we have female combat personel on both sides. We also get a look into how the Empire used to and now the First Order recruits Stormtroopers.
The whole movie also feels more real than any of the prequel trilogy did, which had an almost plasticy feel too it. The old grit of the original trilogy is back. J J Abrams said on a number of occasions that he would go back to animatronics, masks etc. instead of using (and abusing) CGI. He was true to his word and the movie is all the better for it.
The Force Awakens is also full of little details, winks and nods to its predecessors, I caught a few but trying to find them all the first time I watched the movie would have been too distracting, so I guess I have to watch it again (and again, and again!)
Coming back to the characters, although Rey clearly takes center stage and is one great character and destined to [redacted] I thought Finn was more interesting. A reformed Stormtrooper with absolutely no social skills trying to do what his conscience tells him is the right thing. He is the accidental hero, and he gets to play with all the things (literally) the great ones of the first trilogy got to play with. The same is true for Rey, but she is [redacted]. I really love Rey, she is strong, independend, [redacted] and quite obviously a great person with a destiny, but Finn is something new, a character with no parallel in neither of the two previous trilogies.
And then there is Kylo Ren… The villain you hate to love but trust me, you will love him. He is everything Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy should have been but failed to be. Kylo Ren brings more nuances to the Dark Side than either Vader, Dooku, Sidious, or Maul did. I am really looking foreward to seeing him in Star Wars VIII.
One thing I found lacking, though: The plot is far from original. The parallels to [redacted] are too obvious. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens. I have already pre-ordered the DVD. J. J. Abrams has successfully ressourected the franchise from the ashes of the Prequels.
9 out of 10 Star Destroyers.