On Friday morning, nearly everyone I ran into had the same question: "So did you like it?" The short answer is yes..the new Star Wars movie is a lot of fun to watch, and a worthy successor to the Original Trilogy and the Prequels. It wasn't perfect, and was a little too safe in some aspects, but I think Star Wars, and even non-Star Wars fans alike will enjoy the movie for what it is. That being said, there's plenty of pros and cons:
Pros: The Pros of the film are almost too many to count...and perhaps too obvious to need naming. Aside from being an engaging story with solid special effects (without overdoing the CGI), the movie's biggest strength is its characters. While several classic characters appear throughout the film, Kylo Ren and Rey, the new villain and hero of the saga, make this movie work. Each character is essentially a re-incarnation of the Anakin and Luke, but with a fresh twist and (in many cases) much more natural acting/directing. If the movie were just about these two alone...it would have been well worth it. Additionally, this movie succeeds because of the humor; easily one of the funniest Star Wars movies to date (without becoming a comedy). It walks a solid line between humor and seriousness, and leaves the audience appropriately upbeat even though the serious moments. As a stand-alone piece of entertainment, the movie is a lot of fun to watch. The added legacy and backstory makes it all the better.
The OK: As I mentioned earlier, this movie was very safe. It introduced new characters, shots, effects, settings, and conflicts...but at the end of the day it was the exact same story as the original Star Wars. There's something admirable about this...it brings the story back in focus and "resets" everything for future movies and merchandising, but it didn't do much to break new ground. There's a discount Cantina scene, and discount Yoda, and discount Emperor, and even a new "even badder than before" Death Star. Even the two big reveals in regards to Han Solo and his son, while surprising, weren't completely shocking and likely evoked a "yeah, that makes sense" from the audience once the initial shock had worn off. Is this a negative for the movie? No...not yet. It will depend if the creative team can take it to the next level much like Empire Strikes Back did or if the series will continue to be about the same old ideas. Retreads and reboots are great to start...but they also establish somewhat of a running clock. Eventually there needs to be something new.
The Real Question: I'm hardly the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, but relative to my surroundings, I'm probably the most well-versed when it comes to Star Wars. That being said...this movie showed me that while the new administration is good at making a science-fiction film using Star Wars characters...this really wasn't a Star Wars movie. The one thing I've always felt separated the Star Wars movies from other sci-fi features were there basis in visuals and music. All six movies (whether the prequel-haters admit it or not) are all a little "off" compared to typical pace, rhythm, and cadence in the dialogue. The original movies all read like you're watching an overly stylized piece of mythology rather than a literal retelling of a story. In fact, that was probably one of the biggest strengths of the prequels...the fact that they were constructed as a political, visual, melodramatic, piece of music (even though most people just wanted ships and explosions). George Lucas once said "I don't care about characters, and I don't care about plot. Film is a pure medium. It's film. It's pure. It's not supposed to be taping a stage play." Agree with him or not...that's what Star Wars always tried to be..at least according to the original vision.
This movie...while lots of fun (I've already seen it three times) and giving me great hope of the future...wasn't a Star Wars movie in that sense. It looked like a Star Wars movie, and it sounded like one, but in reality, it was like a CGI character from the Polar Express movie (it looks human, but also looks completely fake). I think the Finn character was really the embodiment of this change. While Rey and Kylo Ren seem to be trying their best to make this a Star Wars feature, Finn seems to think he's in the middle of Die Hard or Armageddon. The character is written as a cool, fish-out-of-water, contemporary action hero, which might be fine in an ordinary movie, but it's not a Star Wars character. To me, he was a clear sign that the movie-makers understood Star Wars...but also didn't quite get it. I don't have a problem with the actor, or the directing, or even the writing...but he's a character in the wrong movie. Either that, or the movie isn't quite Star Wars.
Final: If I'm going to rank this movie, I'll give it a solid 8/10. It wasn't a life changing experience (though very few movies are. I can probably count all 10/10's on two hands). It wasn't a "Best Picture" contender (so it didn't 9/10), but that being said, it was about as good a movie as I expected or could have hoped for. I was a little disappointed the director/producer doesn't quite "get" Star Wars...but at least they get it much better than when they ruined Star Trek. The movie was exactly the movie to get the general population excited about Star Wars again. The bar is now raised though; next time, I want to be surprised.