I should preface this mini-review with a little disclosure. I'm a huge fan of the first two movies. They were real bright spots in my childhood. Sadly, though, none of the subsequent motion pictures has come close in matching the quality of the original--until now. If my review seems too harsh, bear this context in mind.
I liked this motion picture quite a lot, and I especially thought Daisy Ridley's performance was a bright spot. She brought an authenticity and passion to the character that was refreshing. Still, there were too many heart-string pulls and hat tips to the original motion pictures that spawned this monster franchise.
Yes, Star Wars: Force Awakens was better than anything offered from George Lucas for a very long time--perhaps since Empire Strikes Back, but it could have been even stronger and tighter if more of the allusions to the first two movies had found themselves on the cutting room floor. A few hat tips and continuity references are great, but this one went just a little too far. For instance, there were even audio snippets of Death Star radio communications spliced into one scene in Force Awakens. This doesn't strengthen the current scene; it distracts from it. The tavern owner, Maz Kanata, was also too Disneyfied for my tastes: another distraction. A great movie, but it could have been awesome if it didn't convey the feeling, as others have first noted, that it was a motion picture created by committee.
Criticisms aside, this was a great family movie and a welcome relief from what passes for science fiction these days. Daisy Ridley's new character really is helpful in bringing this movie up out of its sentimental tone (partially) and moving the narrative forward. I only wish the strong casting choices had been paired with other good decision-making by George Lucas and J.J. Abrams.
Hey, are you looking for a short science fiction tale to help you face Star Wars withdrawal? Check out Alcatraz Burning, a fresh release from Karl Bjorn Erickson (writer of this blog)!