Last night, I sat in a filled theater full of enthusiastic fans enjoying Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens. The audience laughed at the right jokes, gasped at the surprises, and applauded during all the designated crowd-pleasing moments. The viewing was my third time attending a fan-packed Star Wars “early” screening, so I know how these things work. We were primed to embrace the latest installment of our beloved franchise; and gauging audience reactions, the film delivered.
That’s almost where I want to leave things for now, but I would be remiss if I did not get a bit more personal. Frankly, I did not connect emotionally with this movie. I enjoyed a number of action beats, set pieces, and characters, but being entertained is different then emotionally engaged.
Truth be told, the film feels more like J.J. Abrams to Star Trek movies then it does a Star Wars movie (and for many folks that’ll be a good thing). The story feels like an engineered collage of thrilling action beats, telegraphed reveals, and tugs on the heartstrings, but it lacks a deeper mythic resonance that I feel is key to the Star Wars franchise. Any given thing that works in The Force Awakens is “neat”or “cool” when taken in a vacuum, but the whole seems to be less than the sum of its parts. At least, that’s my initial impression, and I look forward to subsequent viewings when I am (hopefully) proven wrong.
This does not mean I did like it.
It does not mean I do not want to see it again.
And it does not imply that you will not enjoy it. I’m fairly certain that most viewers will like this film more than I did. And I am glad for that. A large number of fans have not enjoyed a Star Wars film in the theater since Return of the Jedi over 30 years ago. And for those who love this one, more power to you. I may just need to watch it another three to reach that same point (and, yes, I intend to).