Star Wars: The Force Awakens IMAX 3D

Nominated for Best Film Editing at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Original Score at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Sound Mixing at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Sound Editing at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Visual Effects at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Reviewing the latest chapter in the Star Wars franchise comes with a lot of baggage, so I’m happy to finally be able to get this monkey off my back. Already, I’ve heard grumbling from fans, that it wasn’t nominated for Oscar in the Best Picture category…and I thought that possibility to be hit-or-miss, just ahead of yesterday’s nominees. Anyway, the fanatics can lick their wounds reveling in the fact that the movie recently became the highest grossing domestic release of all time. Is “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” good? Yeah, I think it’s good. And in IMAX 3D, it’s unquestionably BIG, LOUD, AND COMIN’ AT YA. But sue me if I expected it to be much better than just good. I realize director/co-screenwriter J.J. Abrams had an almost impossible task, and he didn’t fail. But he didn’t hit the bullseye either. “The Force Awakens” has plenty of flaws.

Okay, spoiler-allergic nuts–my unconventional plot synopsis. I’ll do my best: Stormtroopers! They look a little different, but the upgrade is cool. A girl (Daisy Ridley) living in a broken down Imperial Walker? Awesome. Finally, a major black character (John Boyega) not named Lando. The Millennium Falcon! I love that freaking ship. Han Solo! Chewbacca! Princess Leia! Luke…he’ll show up. A retread cantina scene? Whatever. A super-duper Death Star? What time is it? X-wing fighters…love it. Jedi mind trick…been there. Some giant CGI baddie. C-3PO, of course. R2D2…duh! Lightsaber battles. The Force. Wait, is that the mask of…

I question how many times we can keep going to the well here, and trying to recapture our childhood. The original “Star Wars” (don’t give me any of that “A New Hope” nonsense) first opened when I was 11…and I adored it. They hit the notes here much more often then the George Lucas-directed prequels did. But they are the same notes. It’s nostalgia porn. Some of “The Force Awakens” was alive and exciting. At other times I was checking my watch. It’s difficult to not achieve some success, when you corral Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, and Mark Hamill. That’s to be expected. And I like that Daisy Ridley and John Boyega too. But a lot of this felt like a remake. It was singing to the 1977 masses. And 1980 too. A long time ago, during a century far, far away, we had two wonderful films called “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back”. And now, 5 times over the last 35 years, they keep trying to match that bar of excellence. I guess they’ll keep trying. And many will keep going. Maybe even me.

Grade:  B

next review up:  “Joy”


14 comments on “Star Wars: The Force Awakens IMAX 3D

  1. Totally agree with you Mark that this was a remake. Not many reviews have acknowledged that point.
    I never thought it would be nominated for Best Picture (much as JJ did a great job) as it is firmly in the Popular realm.
    Interesting piece of trivia (which you may already know but I thought I’d mention) – the new Cantina music is by Lin Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame.

    • I did NOT know about the Miranda music…thanks Simon! My kids, who are obsessed with the music from “Hamilton”, were excited to hear that. Yeah, I haven’t heard many acknowledge how the film tries to follow the beats of the first movie. Sometimes it worked for me, sometimes it didn’t.


  2. Reblogged this on MDellert-dot-Com and commented:
    My feelings exactly. I went into it with my bar set at “please don’t suck.” I walked out saying, “well, it didn’t suck.” I enjoyed it. It was fun. Was it great cinema? Hardly. Best picture nominee? Good lord, no. But as nostalgia porn? Yep. 🙂

    • I worked hard to give it that ‘B’ grade, Mike. My gut was saying B minus at first. But I wanted to try to peer through the hype, and look to future viewings after all the insanity calms down. People may not realize I do this. Every good critic I know bends over backwards to find the best in a film. I try to follow that rule. Thanks for commenting and sharing!


      • I completely understand, and I think you did a good job of being fair and balanced. I just gave it a second viewing over the weekend and was confirmed in both my opinion and your review. It’s a ton of nostalgia-porn and fan-candy, and I think it’s successful in that regard. It reintroduces many of the same tropes from the originals, and I think fans should be generally pleased with it and confident that JJ Abrams can take the franchise forward responsibly. But it’s also a “pass-the-torch” film, which is not yet something we’ve seen much of in the industry (unless I’m mistaken; you may know better than I). We’ve seen franchise reboots (Fury Road being perhaps the best example of one), but I don’t think we’ve yet seen a “next generation” baton-passing for a film franchise (other than the Star Trek universe). By comparison to the first ST:TNG feature film, SW7 is a vastly superior product (which still leaves a lot of room for improvement), and I think SW7 will be successful with this new generation of film-goers in ways that it isn’t successful with the likes of me and you (sophisticated movie-goers with nostalgic memories of how ‘awesome’ Empire Strikes Back was when we were far less sophisticated). In my opinion, it’s most redeeming quality is (minor spoiler alert) the attention it pays to the “I’m afraid I can’t ever be as strong/powerful/awesome as my forebears” theme that must have been on the minds of *everyone* associated with its production. I think that idea humanized the film in a way that the original (obviously) lacked. I think the Captain Phasma character was under-utilized given the Rule of Cool that went into her, and I hope she makes a re-appearance. She had potential to be a break-out character, but they went nowhere with her. I think your review is on the money: it’s a fun ride, it’s generous to fans, but it treads over very familiar ground and doesn’t really introduce anything new (at this point).

    • Love it! Excellent analysis, Mike! Thanks for taking the time.


      • Maybe I should go into movie reviews. I hear that’s where the money’s at. Always a pleasure talking movies with you, Mark. We’ll have to get together soon and do it in person! 😉

    • You can write reviews if you want, Mike Dellert…but I’ll never be able to write a book as fine as your “Hedge King in Winter”.


  3. The best Star Wars film in years? Yes, without a doubt. But compared to the prequels, Transformers in a masterpiece…

  4. And I’m going to sell Mike Dellert on Lynch before I’m all done! ML

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