When I finished watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens yesterday, the first word that coalesced in my head to describe it was masterpiece. Having slept on it, I still think it is, although more one of pure filmmaking than anything else.
The supreme strength of this movie is its cinematicness. Two minutes after the mandatory opening scroll was done and JJ Abrams had set to work doing his own thing, my breath was already gone. And it just went on this way, doing things with the camera and with everything in front of it, both real and computer-generated that were on a level beyond anything we saw in the first six movies. Although I didn’t entirely try to figure out what was real and what was computer-generated; all I could tell was they’d managed to create enough ruggedness and realness to give this movie the grounding feel the original trilogy had and the prequel trilogy lacked. When telling this particular story and having these particular characters and particular scenes, it all added up to the mood of a sweeping epic that is exactly what a Star Wars film should be.
Although the story involved was actually the film’s weak point. There were a few plot holes, ones obvious enough you noticed them even when you were watching and ought to therefore be swept up in the moment. Also, a lot of plot devices and scenes blatantly reused from the original trilogy. Seriously, that whole thing where the bad guys go get even bigger superweapons was annoying enough when it showed up in the EU/Legends novels. Not to mention the whole premise and how this First Order became so big and powerful and the general status of the galaxy isn’t really fleshed out to satisfy; one hopes at least in the next movie we at least deal with the fallout of the Republic’s center getting literally blown up. We don’t need to know everything, some ambiguity even works well, in its way, but we should have a little more explanation.
Thankfully the story was inhabited by characters who worked far better, centered around a pair of protagonists who were complicated creatures both in themselves and their relationship to each other, and even some of the more unlikely actions they took more or less made sense for who they were and how their lives had shaped them. Plus we had a wonderful broken by tragedy but still badass Han Solo, a boss Leia you only wish there’d been more of, and an adorable little rolling droid, with a master who actually wasn’t in enough of the movie to make an impact, but we’ll see more of him in the future, hopefully. Kylo Ren was a bit of a weak point, but his general was a bit better.
I am now avidly looking forward to Episode VIII. But I hope they come up with a more original plot for it.