This is a film that tears me in two.
I went in and I thoroughly enjoyed it, I rooted for the Rebellion, I (metaphorically) booed the
EmpireFirst Order throughout. I thought Rey's arc as the young female lead worked really well throughout except one nerdy point that I'm willing to let go. Generally I liked Finn's arc too (although he's spectacularly well trained in an obscure combat form for no obvious reason) and with one exception I thought Kylo Ren (the villain) was suitably evil and menacing although Darth Vader's looming bulk and sheer threat due to size. However, and without spoilers, the points at which he takes his mask off caused a massive issue for me: he's horribly miscast to my mind, as I just can't see him as a relative of any of the people he's meant to whom we are told he is meant to be related. Oops. If I try to set that aside all the young actors and their roles worked well.
The character beats with the returning actors all worked well and every rebellion and heist movie needs an old Han Solo along, the cynicism and world-weariness work a lot better when you're in your early 70's as Harrison Ford is. They all worked well, whether or not you caught them all.
I'm not sure what it says about me that my first thought on seeing the boss of the First Order - effectively the Emperor - was "That's Gollum!" but I was really not surprised to see Andy Serkis' name show up in the credits. While speaking of casting choices, maybe this should be up above with miscasting choices, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux seems odd. I'm not complaining about his ability to make a speech, stir up the troops etc. but a young-looking 32 year-old as a general felt jarringly young.
At first the little beats that throw back to the earlier films seem nice - crashed star destroyers, scavenging for parts in the ruins and the like. But, after a little while it becomes obvious you've seen this film before, at least if you're a Star Wars fan you have. As I'm writing this I'm close enough I'm still caught up in the fun and excitement - and don't get me wrong, this film was fun and exciting and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But we're close enough to the end of the year I've been considering my Film of the Year list and I'm aware that films that tip over the line between homage into copying for copying's sake tend to decline in my opinion over time. The Force Awakens didn't so much tip over that line as gallop past it and leave me wondering if there's a line between copying for copying's sake and self-plagiarism. If so, I'm not sure if it didn't tip over that line too!
This film was fun, and I would recommend seeing it. It worked well - it should, it's so close to a copy of a film we know that worked well that if it had failed it would have been a disaster. My worry is that, especially given my doubts already, in three months time or so, this will have been pushed down in my memory because it's so derivative.
Bechdel test: Yes. Rey and Maz, Rey and Leia for example. Their conversations are fairly short in the second case but they're not about men, or not directly.
Russo test: No. Not even close. No one identifies as LGBT, let alone taking it any further.
For the nerdy, Daniel Craig plays stormtrooper JB-007. He's the one you see on his own that threatens to tighten Rey's bonds calling her "scavenger scum" - that's pretty much spoiler-free.
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