Does Star Wars: The Force Awakens live up to the hype? Short answer, no. It is, as anyone who's never visited the galaxy far, far away (how?) watching the escalating hype for the film would think, just a movie. A fun, entertaining movie, yes, but still just a big, bombastic two hour cinema experience (and, no, not a patch on the originals).
And it's hard to say that isn't a little bit disappointing. After three years of constant build-up following the purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, a damn-near faultless run of production decisions and carefully-released, deftly-angled trailers, no movie has been subject to such pre-release excitement (or at least since The Phantom Menace), yet the end result is just a rollicking space yarn. Is that it?
But, taking a step away from a world where BB-8 is used to sell oranges, isn't that what Episode VII really needed to be? After the mass derision caused by the prequels, Star Wars needed to win back burned fans while also offering up something new and progressive, which is exactly what J.J. Abrams has done.
Forget the Force, the nostalgia is strong with this one. From the blue establishing sentence making way for bombastic crawling text (possibly the saga's best introduction) to the excellent reintroduction of many an iconic character ("We're home" carries all the required weight), The Force Awakens is as excited as the audience is to be back in that galaxy far, far, away. This is that same world we all fell in love with as kids, as epic and expansive with promise as it was when Luke gazed out at that sunset.
Through all this, the explicit references to the classic movies are well measured, played with the right level of awareness and fitting entirely within the world (there's no Han bursting into a room, blasting the place up and screaming "I ALWAYS SHOOT FIRST"). In fact, the humour (and this is a rather funny movie, remembering that Star Wars isn't all dourness and child murder) in general is excellent - far from just being adorable, BB-8 is freaking hilarious, with lovingly handled, surprisingly physical comedy.
Click next for the second part of the review.