At long, long last, the reviews for Star Wars: The Force Awakens are in, and it sounds like the movie was well worth the wait. The embargo for reviews lifted this morning, and the general consensus is that JJ Abrams, the man whose been so nervous in the lead-up to the grand premiere, has done himself truly proud. We've rounded up a selection of choice cuts from critics' Star Wars: The Force Awakens reviews, and it looks like Christmas has come early.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review Verdicts
JJ Abrams has an instinctive sympathy for the classic Star Wars landscapes and lays them out with élan: the switch from galaxies to shadowy forests and of course vast rippling deserts. In almost her first appearance, Rey is seen tobogganing down a huge dune on a sled made of rope. For me it’s a reminder that though the first Star Wars was avowedly inspired by Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress, I think it originally derived its look from David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia or even the dreamscapes of Dalí.
But of course this film is part of an entertainment world so huge it need refer only to itself. The Force Awakens does not, in the way of other franchises, feel the need to be “dark” – having of course repudiated the dark side. It basically powers along on a great surging riptide of idealism and optimism, that family-movie ethic which some have derided for killing off the dystopian tradition of sci-fi. In fact, Star Wars has now gone beyond the sci-fi genre to its own kind of intergalactic quasi-Arthurian romance: that and a return to the world of Saturday morning pictures. The Force Awakens is ridiculous and melodramatic and sentimental of course, but exciting and brimming with energy and its own kind of generosity. What a Christmas present.
The Guardian -- Peter Bradshaw
When he worked primarily in TV, Abrams was renowned as the master of the pilot. Whether it was Alias or Lost, he was able to effortlessly set up characters and stories that would play out not just over two hours, but over years — and that’s precisely what he’s done with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. While there’s no way to match the hype that has descended around the release of this film — it’s essentially a sequel 32 years in the making — as the credits rolled I found myself even more excited to see what Rian Johnson and Colin Trevorrow are going to do with the next two sequels. Unlike the original film, which wrapped up in a relatively tidy fashion, Abrams and Kasdan have set up a series of ongoing plotlines and hanging story threads that will give the new filmmakers endless opportunities in the years to come. They’ve become the architects of a new generation of Star Wars stories, and if The Force Awakens is any indicator, the sense of adventure and potential that resonated so strongly 30 years ago will be now be available for a new generation, one more diverse and far-reaching than the series ever tried to address before.
The lightsaber fights are pretty cool, too.
The Verge -- Bryan Bishop
It’s storytelling like this – addictively bold and wildly exciting – that sends The Force Awakens surging through your capillaries and straight to your heart, even more so than the beautifully styled planets (I loved the moss-draped, sylvan idyll of Takodana), the rubbery monsters, the measured pacing (characters actually talk to each other!), and the heavy dusting of nostalgia.
I’ll confess to crying three times during the film: once during Rey and Finn's escape from Jakku, when I realised that Star Wars was in safe hands, again during one particular Kylo Ren scene which I’ve gone out of my way not to describe above, and also during the climactic lightsaber duel, framed by frozen trees and illuminated by flares of red and blue electricity – which I suspect, on an initial watch, might be the most thrilling battle of its kind to date.
You wouldn’t describe the choreography as snazzy, but the dramatic stakes are dizzying. Never mind the spacecraft and explosions. Two beautiful faces in tight close up, dramatically lit and blazing with emotion? That’s what cinema is for.
The Telegraph -- Robbie Collin
This is a triumphant reboot of the biggest film franchise of our lifetimes and fully earns its place as the soon-to-be biggest film of all time.
The Force is, indeed, strong in this film.
Express -- Stefan Kyriazis
If you're on the fence about this film, jump off it at once. This is a wild roller-coaster ride with epic emotional pauses. It is a feast for the senses. John Williams does his usual sterling work, effortlessly mixing old and new themes. Industrial Light & Magic will have you believing in the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy all over again.
Even in its most derivative moments, this movie feels right. It has a beating, aching heart filled with love for the franchise and its fans. It feels like Star Wars. And it's dying to take you away.
Mashable -- Chris Taylor
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is actually probably objectively the best Star Wars yet, and would be held up as untouchable had it come first. So let's not let ourselves get too bloody internet-y about it and start it tearing to pieces, and enjoy what is a fun, well-executed and thoroughly corrective sequel.
The Independent -- Christopher Hooton
In the end, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” suggests the work of a filmmaker who faced the exciting yet unenviable task of partially reassembling one of the most beloved ensembles in movie history, furthering their characters’ adventures in a meaningful fashion, and helping them pass the baton from one generation of action figures to the next — and emerged, in the end, with a compromise solution that, even when it’s not firing on all cylinders, has been put across with sufficient style, momentum, love and care to prove irresistible to any who have ever considered themselves fans. Risking heresy, it’s worth noting that Abrams actually did smarter, more inventive work on his 2009 reboot of “Star Trek,” no doubt in part because he was working with a less heavily guarded enterprise. “Star Wars,” at once a cultural juggernaut and a sacrosanct institution, resists any attempt to reimagine its landscape too aggressively or imaginatively; that may be to the detriment of this diverting first effort, but Abrams has more than stoked our anticipation for what his successors may have up their sleeves.
Variety -- Justin Chang
Leaving you eminently satisfied and stuffed full of questions – about the film itself and the ones that will follow – The Force Awakens is an undeniable success. But those die-hard Star Wars fans expecting perfection should, as ever, take a deep breath and just enjoy the ride, because this is a really good one, and you'll be taking it again (and again and again) before you know it.
Digital Spy -- Ali Plumb
This is filmmaking on an enormous scale and it packs a planet-sized punch, launching a new generation of characters who – by the end – take a place next to Han, Leia and the rest. *Star Wars* is back, and this is just the beginning.
Empire -- Helen O'hara
Trust your feelings. I’ll just say this: If you loved Star Wars once, everything you loved is back. And if you’re new? Welcome home.
Wired -- Adam Rogers
Abrams is a more dynamic, kinetic film-maker than George Lucas ever was - and The Force Awakens is a much more involving, dramatic proposition than the originals when re-seen now. He's done a good job. But the movie has a major problem in this central character. Ridley, previously little known, seems a genuinely sweet girl and is quite pretty - but can barely act at all. Her facial expressions are limited and repetitive, her interactions with her fellow stars unconvincing, her physical repertoire - running, fighting, shooting - awkward. You start thinking: give her time, she'll loosen up, it'll get better. It never does. And she's the heroine, the very heart of the film. So that doesn't work. How different the ride would have been with Alicia Vikander, say, or Saoirse Ronan, or even, whisper it, Jennifer Lawrence, in the part. Still fun, though.
Standard -- David Sexton