I’ve been fairly vocal about my lack of enthusiasm for The Force Awakens, so naturally I went to see it on opening day. The story is that we’re away all week, today was our day to rest between all-day outings, my son wanted to see it badly, and my daughter and I said “Sure, why not?” By the time we’d decided this, it was still possible to reserve tickets for the least popular showing (5:00 PM, not 3D), so we did. Assuming it would be crowded, we arrived 45 minutes ahead of time, to discover there was already a long line to get into the theater.
Pro-tip 1: Expect crowds.
The theater owners naturally assumed that we were SF movie fans, so the previews were heavily weighted towards that. There were not one, but two Marvel previews, the first of which apparently portrays superheroes in ancient Athens1, as well as a DC movie about Batman and Superman, and another about space aliens invading earth. All the trailers were accompanied by extremely loud, percussive (basically annoying as hell) music.
Pro-tip 2: Ignore the previews.
Finally, the movie itself began with the classic Star Wars title card and theme, which was enough to elicit audience applause. The fellow who usually does the score for J.J. Abrams films turned down this one, saying that everyone (including himself) would rather hear a John Williams score, and he was exactly right. We were introduced to a group of young actors we hadn’t seen before (at least in the Star Wars franchise; I recalled Oscar Isaac from the Coen Brothers’ About Llewyn Davis), all of whom were quite appealing. And they were all both capable of acting like actual people and allowed to do so. There was nothing even vaguely resembling making poor Natalie Portman wear a Victoria’s Secret bustier while telling Hayden Christensen that she wasn’t interested.
Pro-tip 3: George Lucas neither directing nor writing any dialog is a good thing.
There was a good mix of action scenes and character-building scenes, with, of course, an extended high-action scene as the climax. All the things I expected to see as tributes to the original films were there2, though I can’t think of any references specifically to the prequel trilogy.3 And the film as a whole was well constructed, introducing characters clearly, bringing them more or less naturally into the plot, and having a satisfying resolution while still leaving a few loose ends that will clearly be further developed in the next two films.
Pro-tip 4: See Pro-tip 3.
Overall grade 7/10, with a firm intention to see the next one when it comes out in 2017.