Image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Every critic has their blind spots. For yours truly, it’s action science-fiction. Just in the last decade, the subgenre has given birth to heart-pumping masterpieces like District 9, Inception, and Gravity and they’re the films I most consistently look forward to. (Two of my most anticipated movies this year, point in fact, were Valerian and the City of the Thousand Planets and Blade Runner 2049.)
As a result of loving the sub-genre so much, I can sometimes be dazzled into distraction in a way other genres aren’t able to. The only movies I generally lower my review ratings for tend to be action sci-fi, like Star Trek Into Darkness and Elysium, both of which dropped half a star between my initial reviews and second viewings.
All of which is to say I, like most in 2015, was a little too impressed by The Force Awakens. It’s a really good movie, don’t get me wrong. But I initially gave it 4½ stars and placed it on my Best Movies of 2015 list — a little undeservingly, I’ve come to see, as my rating for the seventh Star Wars entry has settled to an even 4 stars out of 5.
Photo: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
When it was announced to the world that the director of the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, would be J.J. Abrams, it made the most sense of anyone imaginable. The task of continuing arguably the most beloved film saga of all time — while also redeeming the collective disappointment of “the prequels” — was a fool’s errand, after all.
Of course, so was rebooting Star Trek in 2009, which Abrams handled with such deft aplomb that it resurrected the entire franchise. Abrams showed the perfect flair for paying respect to a series’ roots (which a new Star Wars movie is required, by nature, to do) while also being unafraid to take bold chances (which the three most recent Star Wars movies largely failed to do).
Perhaps most anticipated about The Force Awakens has not been what the exact plot would be or how new and old characters would intertwine but how well Abrams would do with the torch that Disney passed on, after George Lucas finally released his grip. The world can now release its collective breath. J.J. Abrams’ hugely successful rescue of the series represents the truest new hope for the saga since 1977 — and in more literal ways than you may expect. Continue reading