The embargo on Star Wars: The Force Awakens reviews has finally been lifted. So, after those dodgy prequels, has the force returned to the Star Wars franchise? Does the film live up to the unprecedented hype? If the nearly unanimous critical praise is anything to go on, the answer is a definitive “yes.” Here’s just a selection of the reviews. Could The Force Awakens shake up the very unpredictable Oscar race this year?
Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “The big news about Star Wars: The Force Awakens is—spoiler alert—that it’s good! Despite the prerelease hype, it won’t save the world, not even Hollywood, but it seamlessly balances cozy favorites—Harrison Ford, ladies and gentlemen—and new kinetic wows along with some of the niceties that went missing as the series grew into a phenomenon, most crucially a scale and a sensibility that is rooted in the human. It has the usual toy-store-ready gizmos and critters, but it also has appealingly imperfect men and women whose blunders and victories, decency and goofiness remind you that a pop mythology like Star Wars needs more than old gods to sustain it.”
Peter Bradshaw in a five-star Guardian review: “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.”
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: “[O]ne of the primary satisfactions of this sharply paced and lively blockbuster is the obvious care that has gone into every aspect of the production, from the well-balanced screenplay and dominance of real sets and models over computer graphics to the casting, a strict limitation on self-referential, in-jokey humor and the thoroughly refreshed feel of John Williams‘ exuberant score.”
Frank Pallotta, CNN: “I have spent a good amount of my adult life trying to convince people that Star Wars is art. The seventh installment in the saga, The Force Awakens, will help make that argument. To say the Force is with The Force Awakens would not only be a bad pun, but an understatement. The Disney film is full of the excitement, dread and joy that have been hallmarks of the franchise since the original film in 1977. I have been a Star Wars fan since I was six years old, so trust me that I do not take it lightly when I say that the latest chapter is the best film in the series since the original trilogy.”
Brian Truitt in his four-star review in USA Today: “Set aside worries about the second coming of The Phantom Menace. With a cast of entertaining new characters, heartfelt scenes, huge planetary battles and no qualms about being very funny or very dark at times, director J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens returns the iconic sci-fi franchise to a glorious place that hasn’t been seen since Ewoks danced off into victory in Return of the Jedi 32 years ago.”
Dan Kois, Slate: “As the reviews flood in this morning for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, they’re all pretty much … good! There are plenty of reasons for that: J.J. Abrams can really stage an action scene; the script offers plenty of familiar comforts but takes seriously its mission of contemporary inclusiveness; BB-8. But the main reason, I think, is an overwhelming sense of relief—relief that, unlike last time, a new Star Wars trilogy hasn’t been introduced with a movie that feels like a joke. Nowhere is that represented so clearly as in the fact that every single performance in The Force Awakens is good.
Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal: “Everything you need to know about the movie is precisely where it belongs, in the movie. Just see it. You’ll love it.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “You can choose to understand The Force Awakens as an embrace of the mythological tradition, in which the same stories recur over and over with minor variations. Or you can see it as the ultimate retreat into formula: ‘Let’s just make the same damn movie they loved so much the first time!’ There are moments when it feels like both of those things, profound and cynical, deeply satisfying and oddly empty. This is the work of a talented mimic or ventriloquist who can just about cover for the fact that he has nothing much to say. He has made an adoring copy of Star Wars, seeking to correct its perceived flaws, without understanding that nothing about that movie’s context or meaning or enormous cultural impact can be duplicated.”
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times: “Director J.J. Abrams and fellow screenwriters Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have come up with some potent new characters and outstanding moments. When all goes as partisans hoped it would, you’re glad you’re in the room. But The Force Awakens is also burdened by casting miscalculations and scenes that are flat and ineffective. Sometimes the Force is with this film, sometimes it decidedly is not.”
Scott Mendelson, Forbes: “The film follows the structure of A New Hope to such a significant degree that I spent much of the first act wondering if I was watching the Star Wars equivalent of Gus Van Sant’s Psycho. It also omits or neglects vital connective tissue and merely hints at a far more interesting story than the one we get. Considering what a precedent-setting franchise the original Star Wars was, it is not a little disheartening that this new installment does not blaze its own path, but rather rehashes its former glories for our approval.”
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