Jason Gorber, Featured Critic
There’s a weird thing that’s happened since I first saw The Force Awakens a week ago – I’ve had plenty of opportunity in both print and on air to provide analysis, taking in the film with a bit of (shall we say?) professional detachment and critical acumen. Meanwhile, some of my colleagues are gushing enthusiastically and unreflectively, even dismissing any of my “nitpicks” as being due to fanboy proclivities.
Here’s my somewhat ambivalent take – yes, I’m a fan of Star Wars, and yes, I like many parts of the prequels. With TFA I’ve seen most if not all of this before, and felt we got exactly what was expected, which in turn lacked the sense of real discovery we got even from Episodes I-III. At the same time, this is exactly the film that Disney/Lucasfilm needed to make, exactly the right level of nostalgia mixed with some fantastic new characters.
The performances of Boyega and Ridley are ace, and Poe gets to have his moments whooping it up. On second viewing Driver’s take grew on me considerably, and I like the flawed characterisation they made of Ren. Ford’s having fun for the first time in forever, and Fisher’s seemingly the worst general ever, having less than anything to do.
There’s still glaringly weak elements, from dropped story points to overly convenient emotional moments that aren’t earned, while others are executed clumsily. Yet there’s other moments where the film soars, where the one-liners land hard and fast, and where we get a sense of thrill watching a Star Wars film on the big screen.
We’ll see how it ages, especially in context of a marathon where its echoes to Jedi, Empire and A New Hope will become even more glaring (where’s Death Star II when they show the size difference?) I’m betting in time this will feel even more of a stepping-stone film, outclassed by what’s to come in subsequent episodes. At the same time, I’m betting some elements – Rey’s dream, for one – will take on new and greater import when some of the story holes are filled in, meaning that the bits of the film being loved now may diminish, while other elements skipped over will take on more import. Time will tell, for now I’m just pleased it’s not the mess it could well have been, that the balance between meta-narrative interests and just telling a decent tale are struck, and that the stage is fully set for what’s to come.