It wasn’t until three days before Star Wars: Episode VII-The Force Awakens dropped that I became genuinely terrified it was going to suck for reasons that are completely unnecessary to recap. It didn’t help that I wasn’t seeing it until Sunday, making the wait that much more excruciating and my social media browsing that much more risky, lest I happen upon some of those dreaded spoilers. I saw TFA with my mom, my older brother and his wife in a packed theater for a 10:40 matinee to cap off a weekend that had not been kind to me physically or mentally. These two hours and 16 minutes (more like three hours, seeing as we showed up super early to get decent seats) were going to make or break my Sunday.
Here is the brief version: it’s good. In fact it comes pretty close to great and gets better the more I think about it, which might necessitate a second viewing for me. TFA has its fair share of flaws, none of which come close to breaking it and it more or less gives you everything you want from a new Star Wars movie. The new cast is awesome, the old cast is as awesome as you remember and the story has an appropriate “this is Star Wars” feel to it.
Good as it was, TFA didn’t blow me away; there are at least two scenes that got the whole theater clapping (me included) but otherwise I didn’t come out of it thinking I had seen some spellbinding masterpiece of cinema. The fan service starts to wear thin midway through. There’s at least one dramatic turn that is robbed of its heartbreak factor by how predictable it is. The story itself feels like a broad retelling of A New Hope and that’s before we reach the finale: an X-Wing flies through a trench to take out a planet destroying super weapon, which is protected by an energy shield that another group of characters have to take down, which is all taking place on a snowy, icy planet. Essentially, it’s the three big action set pieces from the original trilogy dropped into a blender.
This is where the cast comes into play, because without them, TFA is nothing special. It’s hard to put into words just how satisfying it is to see Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher slip back into Han and Leia mode, more so because of how well they mesh with newcomers Daisy Ridley (as new hero Rey), John Boyega (defecting Stormtrooper Finn) and Oscar Isaac (as ace pilot Poe Dameron). But the biggest standout of all is Girls star Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the villain of the piece. It’s impossible to talk much about Ren without revealing some major spoilers, so I’ll just leave it at this: he’s a radical departure from any Star Wars badguy we’ve seen before and I can’t wait to see how his story unfolds.
Weirdly enough, the movie TFA reminds me of most is this years’ Peanuts. They both do just enough things good enough to dance on the cusp of greatness, they both give audiences what they want and they both grow on you to the point where you desperately want to see them again. TFA leaves you hungry for more, which is the best possible feeling to have on this side of the first new Star Wars film in a decade.