Sunday, December 20, 2015

Review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (no spoilers)

A friend was buying tickets to the new Star Wars film and managed to get tickets for a bunch of us to go. I hadn't been following all the recent hype about the new film and hadn't watched any of the trailers, I was really disappointed about the prequels (especially The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, blah!) so I wasn't excited about the new film. But after checking out it's rating on and discovering that (gasp!) critics were saying it's actually pretty good, I got a bit excited to go see the movie and I wanted to see it before details got spoiled.

So I went to the movie with a clean slate, absolutely no idea what was going to happen or who the new characters were.

First, the theatre. We went to the Novo theatre at the Pearl. I didn't realize until we got there that my friend had bought tickets to their most expensive theater, the Novo "7-star". I have to admit it was luxurious, huge comfortable seats that recline and have foot rests, essentially a Lazy-Boy chair. Embedded in the chair was an iPad that you can use for ordering your snacks and drinks, which are then delivered to you by a waiter. They even supply a pillow and blanket! The theater was steep so even with the seat fully reclined you had a complete view of the screen and if someone in the row ahead of you stood up it didn't block your view. The nicest theatre experience I ever had. You pay for it though – QAR 150 a ticket (~ US$ 41).

As for the movie itself it was definitely an entertaining film, I’d probably give it a 7.5/10. It did a much better job than the prequels of capturing the adventurous spirit of the originals, and the new characters were well developed and brought some of that lightness and humour that made people like Han Solo so endearing. The special effects were great without being too overused, and the movie moved away from all of the political/trade complexities that bogged down the prequels, sticking to the “we’re in trouble / lots of fighting and blaster fire / witty banter” formula of the original three films.

My one main criticism was that the movie was such a derivative of the original three films that at times it was more like a remake then a new movie. You'll know what I mean when you see it, so many things appeared to be just duplicating things from the original series that I found myself wishing that the producers could have been a bit more risky and done a lot more completely new things. This lack of originality hampered things a bit but I’m hopeful that the later films will take the story in new directions.

When it came to critics reviews it was the one issue that divided them. Critics who didn't care that the movie recycled many things gave the movie rave reviews, critics who cared more about it notched the movie down a bit to "good but not amazing".

Where does it rank in the canon of Star Wars films? I’d rank it below A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back, but well above any of the three prequels (which I have never had a desire to ever see again). Right now my gut feeling is to rank it just slightly below Return of the Jedi but that could change in the future if the subsequent films manage to really tie everything together well and make the new characters as iconic as the originals.

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