Those terribly sensitive to spoilers should not proceed. I won't include anything too telling, but refrain if even the slightest inkling will send you into a nerd-rage.
We couldn't pass up on the opportunity to review the biggest anticipated movie of the year, horror or not. There are plenty of Star Wars fans that fall into both eternal territories, so we aren't speaking on deaf ears, here. The downside to every "most anticipated film of the year" nominee is that these films are often the most scrutinized upon release. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was a beneficiary of the former and now must suffer the wrath of the latter. Did it live up to expectations? Was it as glorious as some had hoped? Was it the perfect balance of homage, freshness, standalone quality, and sequel cohesion? Did it "do justice" to the originals while blazing a new path of awesome?
I think the impossibly high standards this film was expected to make doomed it from the start with diehard Star Wars fans and the friends and family dragged along having been barraged with high praise for the originals. This film was no disappointment, but the flaws that are constantly tossed at Return of the Jedi (unwarranted from this critic's perspective) will be shot from a similar tongue here.
It deposited the Star Wars pattern of storytelling from beginning to end, in a way that I can only describe as "Star Wars tropes". Without spoiling any details, I found the repeated elements to be a bit too obvious and definitely unnecessary, spoiling the originality of the piece. The character development was solid and the story was well-paced and seemed to fit into the groove of the originals decently.
The new character and creature designs, along with the absolutely fantastic set pieces, were the highlight of the film. You felt immersed in every environment, with almost a Guillermo del Toro attention to detail in the practical effects and set design. I felt a little underwhelmed when CGI was used in a way that felt unnecessary, when everything around this alien character is puppetry, suits, and animatronics. But it's a minor complaint from what was otherwise the best part of the film.
People already had their torches and pitchforks out when JJ Abrams was slated to direct, before a single shot of the film had been taken. Those who dislike his work won't find solace in the theater, but take note the solar flares have been noticeably cut back (though present). The old characters didn't feel forcibly involved in the script, never taking the part of cameo or being pasted on. The new characters opened and developed well, but then seemed to unravel in direction and motive in the closing minutes. Kylo Ren closed out on a low note for me, as his prowess regressed as the movie went on. Oddly enough, the only character that felt like a cameo was one of the newly-introduced characters many were looking forward to seeing.
There were minor artistic licenses taken throughout the film. Most notably was the evolution of the stormtrooper as a character rather than a force. It added a new dynamic, but also felt weird at times. Weird isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just made some moments feel awkward from the traditionalist in me.
**Ambiguous Spoilers Ahead**
A single scene will end up defining this movie. It would be hard to be taken as a good or bad decision, because the inevitability of the scenario made it feel necessary. But the necessity of it doesn't change the fact that it let the air out of the theater. I didn't hear a peep, but you could feel the aura of depression sweep across the theater, and it sat in the room until the credits rolled. It is like with anything in which your logic fights with your heart. You want to feel disappointed, but when you really think about it, what else can happen in this moment with the development of the story? I would love to hear the thoughts of others on this (I'm sure at this point, very clear) topic.
Horror Qualifier: 1/10
Horror Quality: 1/10
Film Quality: 7/10