If you haven’t heard it shouted from all corners of this galaxy (and the one far, far away), a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens is opening on Friday.
As fans count down to the big day, critics are unleashing their reviews of the highly anticipated film. And, those fans will be happy to hear, many of those reviews are positive.
As EW’s Chris Nashawaty (who gave the film a B+) wrote, “J.J. Abrams’The Force Awakens delivers exactly what you want it to: rollicking adventure wrapped in epic mythology, a perfect amount of fan service that fires your geekiest synapses, and a just-right cliffhanger ending that paves the way for future installments.”
You can read his full review here, and see below for what others thought of The Force Awakens.
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Manohla Dargis, The New York Times: “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.”
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post: “Abrams has done stellar work by casting actors who will be unknown to most filmgoers but who shoulder their responsibilities with skill and confidence. Daisy Ridley resembles the plucky younger sister of Emma Watson and Keira Knightley as Rey, a scrappy, steampunk-ish scavenger who befriends a wandering soldier named Finn (John Boyega). Oscar Isaac brings just the right amount of cocksure street smarts to his role as Poe Dameron, and Adam Driver is similarly right-on as a shadowy, somewhat simian figure named Kylo Ren.”
Brian Truitt, USA Today: “The Force Awakens leans heavily into shades of Star Wars past and isn’t shy about that in the least. There are visually spectacular dogfights between X-wings and TIE Fighters set to John Williams’ sparkling score; another overarching bad guy who uses holograms, Supreme Leader Snoke (played via motion capture by Andy Serkis), a nasty figure along the lines of the late Emperor; and Starkiller Base, which makes the Death Star look like a Fisher-Price My First Space Battle Station.”
Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press: “The action is nearly non-stop, as is the humor, which kicks into gear when Han Solo (Harrison Ford) finally shows up. Ford is in his element — delightful, energetic, funny, brash and fully Han, bantering with Chewie and everyone with the same verve he showed nearly 40 years ago. If only the same showcase was given to Carrie Fisher, who is woefully, inexcusably underused as Leia. As for the new characters, Ridley’s Rey is a dream. She is feisty, endearingly awe-filled, capable and magnetic. She is the new anchor. She is our Luke, and she’s much cooler than he ever was.”
Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter: “As the best Star Wars anything — film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have-you — in at least 32 years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens pumps new energy and life into a hallowed franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. But whereas the fundamental touchstones of George Lucas’ original creation remain, in director J.J. Abrams’ hands there is a shift in tone that brings the material closer to the feel of a Steven Spielberg film. Specifically, into an Indiana Jones realm, which is mostly, but not entirely, to the good.”
Justin Chang, Variety: “Risking heresy, it’s worth noting that Abrams actually did smarter, more inventive work on his 2009 reboot of Star Trek, no doubt in part because he was working with a less heavily guarded enterprise. Star Wars, at once a cultural juggernaut and a sacrosanct institution, resists any attempt to reimagine its landscape too aggressively or imaginatively; that may be to the detriment of this diverting first effort, but Abrams has more than stoked our anticipation for what his successors may have up their sleeves.”
Andrew O’Hehir, Salon: “For better or worse — and here’s where my hoodie-wearing friend’s thought experiment comes in — The Force Awakens is more like a remake or a mashup of the first two Star Wars pictures than a sequel. Yes, in technical terms Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt are picking up the narrative some 30 years after the destruction of the Galactic Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi. But they barely even pretend to advance the story of the initial trilogy; they rewind it and repeat it, with new characters substituting for old ones but many of the same action set-pieces, narrative dilemmas and hidden connections.”
Peter Howell, Toronto Star: “The Force Awakens is the Star Wars movie fans have been waiting for, lo these many years. As much a restoration as it is a reboot of a cherished movie franchise, it’s the first return trip to that galaxy far, far away since at least 1983 that requires no excuses or apologies.”
Alynda Wheat, PEOPLE: “If watching Hamill, Fisher and Ford onscreen again doesn’t bring back a flood of terrific memories, then you should check your pulse. You are likely dead. The three have the same heart and soul they ever did, with years adding lines and wisdom. The shorthand is easy, the gaps fill in—they’ve never left popular culture, and therefore never really left us. We just needed to see them again. Granted, director J.J. Abrams leans a little heavily on the nostalgia, but given all he had to accomplish in this massive franchise reboot, can you blame him?”
Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair: “This could easily have been a mess, but in nearly every way that the film could have gone wrong, it doesn’t. The Force Awakens finds just the right path through reverence and respect to find invention, ushering a new generation into its galaxy of iconic visuals and reliable heroes by raising the epic stakes, while keeping the narrative, for the most part, focused and propulsive. The cleverest thing that The Force Awakens does is make this a generational experience not just for its audience, but for its characters, too. As you’ve no doubt seen in the ubiquitous promotional material, some old friends are back—Han Solo and Chewbacca chief among them—but there’s also a group of youngsters to carry this story, and the old folks, and us, into a new era.
Will Leitch, New Republic: “It’s delightful just to see Solo again, and Ford plays along with that, but then he takes it a little bit farther than you were expecting: There is deceptive power and depth to what Ford is doing here, an old movie star deciding to go ahead and give it his all this time, to be at one with his audience one last time. Indiana Jones may an all-time movie icon, but Han Solo launched a specific sort of American hero Hollywood has been trying in vain to recapture ever since. This is the character Ford will be remembered for.”
Matt Patches, Thrillist: “There’s a scene in the movie where the Resistance’s inner circle assesses the First Order’s prized possession: a weapon ‘three times bigger than the Death Star.’ And in Abrams’ hands, Force Awakens is three times bigger than its predecessors, sacrosanct and on steroids.”
Drew McWeeny, HitFix: “It’s a very good movie, I’d say, and should entertain audiences both deeply and casually invested in the ongoing saga of the Skywalker family. Made with a profound sense of passion and respect by an entire generation of filmmakers and performers who were influenced by the original films, this is a deeply affectionate film, and that affection, that honestly felt love, is what is going to make all the difference for viewers.”
Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast: “This is where it becomes apparent what Abrams’ lasting impact on the Star Warsverse will be: As he did with Gene Roddenberry’s nearly 50-year-old Star Trek series, Abrams was tapped to scrub George Lucas’s Star Wars of the stain that was those dreadful prequels, to inject what is arguably the most beloved fantasy property of all time with new blood while retaining a nostalgic connection to what made the original films great. And that’s exactly what Abrams has done in The Force Awakens, the lead-off film paving the way for Disney’s planned reboots: He’s gone and Star Trekked up the Star Wars franchise, for better and for worse.
Eric Kohn, Indiewire: “The hype is strong with this one, but brace yourself: The Force Awakens does have flaws. It’s a little hokey in parts and at times distractingly self-referential, but that itself speaks to the nature of the material. Much as Abrams’ Super 8 worshipped at the alter of Spielbergian sci-fi, The Force Awakens shows deep reverence for the first trilogy — even if it can’t duplicate its strengths.”
Matt Singer, ScreenCrush: “The film is at its best in its first 40 minutes, before the classic cast returns, and the new stars get to strut their stuff. Although Star Wars has always been about the past, The Force Awakens is ironically at its best when it looks the future.”
Mike Ryan, Uproxx: “What’s most important here is the tone. The Force Awakens absolutely nails the tone. This feels like the first Star Wars movie since 1983.”
Devin Faraci, BirthMoviesDeath: “The Force Awakens is the Star Wars movie for remix and remake culture. It’s not a remake or a reboot, but it’s a movie that tells a story not entirely dissimilar from the original Star Wars, except that many of the familiar beats and moments have a spin put on them.”