While I’ve previously ranted both in real life and the internet about how Star Wars dumbed down Sci-Fi in the popular consciousness and created a weird sub-division in the SF world about what Sci-Fi is seen as socially acceptable to like. Basically show me a Michael Moorcock or Harlan Ellison essay on the subject and I’d probably agree with it.
With that said I am still a fan of the films and probably will always be so heres my honest opinion on the film; it’s slightly above average.
I’ll start with the good points: This is the first SW film where I’ve cared about the lead character; Mark Hamill and Hayden Christensen are both mediocre at best actors who’s roles both served as a means to an end basically. Both our leads here, Rey and Finn, are well rounded characters who actually break the mold of heroes in Star Wars by not being generic placeholder characters who exist basically for the plot to happen to.
Finn is a conscripted Storm Trooper who abandons his post and works with the new rebellion simply to afford passage to a faraway hiding place; John Boyega is a good actor who manages to portray a wisecracking antihero with enough charm and emotion to not grate on the audience in the way many such characters do. Daisy Ridley portrays the more conventionally heroic Rey who, though a more generic cinematic hero who I think was included to milk the popularity of the Hunger Games, and knocks it out the park with a serious and mature yet still fundamentally traditional heroine.
Harrison Ford is as awesome as ever portraying his most famous role and the rest of the returning original trilogy cast all have decent, if arguably pointless, performances. The Star Wars franchise has always been renowned for it’s visual effects and this is obviously no exception; massive space battles and explosions will excite the popcorn film lovers in the audience.
Bad Points: This is A New Hope all over again, literally. The story line goes as followers: Protagonist is a poor laborer on Tatooine until they’re caught up in the evil empires plot alongside a rebellion sympathiser and end up on the Millennium Falcon, piloted by a Han Solo whose character development in the previous films and expanded universe material was completely undone, resulting in our hero learning about the force and observing a slow lightsaber duel that results in (SPOILER START) their mentor dying (SPOILER END) this is followed by a heroic dogfight within the death star that ends in a narrow victory and a momentary happy ending to conclude the film, with a brief sequel hook at the end with (SPOILER START) Rey climbing up the mountain and looking eye to eye with a dialogue less Luke Skywalker.
Pacing is bizarre at best: we open with a slow walking sequence that randomly turns into an action sequence that suddenly transitions into introducing Finn which goes into another action sequence, this pattern sadly pervades the entire film. The lead villains of the film are extremely underwhelming compared to the iconic antagonists bought forth by previous installments: lead Sith lord has the interesting concept of being (SPOILER START) Han Solo and Princess Leia’s son (SPOILER END) but ends up coming across as a rejected Twilight character, the new emperor is basically the original emperor minus Ian Mcdiarmid’s immense talent.
The fact we have two more confirmed films being put out in half the time this one was made in, I can’t say this will bode well for the franchise’s future from a narrative standpoint but it’s such a money making franchise I doubt that’ll matter. I don’t think the franchise could get any worse than Phantom Menace and Attack Of The Clones were thought and despite what I’m saying here, I’ll still probably be first in line for tickets to the next episode.
Overall I’d suggest seeing it only if you’re a fan of Star Wars and it’s ilk of Action Science Fantasy blockbusters or if you really don’t want to be left out of the loop in your friends cinematic discussions.