It’s pretty good. About as good as a paint-by-numbers action movie can be. And if it sounds like I’m damning the movie with faint praise, good. Because faint praise is about all I can muster.
On the technical side of things, it’s pretty much spot on, which it better be with that kind of budget. Of course, you can see JJ Abrams’ trademark lack of visual continuity everywhere. Each scene looks great individually, but the movement doesn’t follow from one shot to another.
The creative side of things is bland. The movie does nothing to earn its emotional moments. Just like in Star Trek, Abrams completely fails to get *why* these things he’s referencing worked in the first place. Since I don’t want to spoil The Force Gets Out of Bed, I’ll use ‘Into Darkness’ to illustrate my point.
Spock’s death in ‘Wrath of Khan’ was one of the greatest, most impactful moments of cinema history. Spock and Kirk had been friends for fifteen years. Their relationship had gone up and down, but they relied on each other. They made one another better people. Kirk was hot-headed and rash, but he knew it was a weakness and let Spock reel him in, even when they disagreed. Spock learned that sometimes, you have to make quick decisions and that constant logical thinking can paralyze you with indecision.
In ‘Into Darkness’, Kirk and Spock had known each other for four hours of screen time, three of which they spent acting like children and forming no bond of any kind. Kirk sacrificing himself for Spock was a complete waste, content with simply referencing an older event without any build-up. The emotion wasn’t even close to earned.
Almost every moment in The Force Gets its Morning Coffee fails for the same reason, though never to the same degree. “Hey, remember the Millennium Falcon? Me too! It exists! How cool is that! And those characters? They sure are back! Neat, right?” When characters die, you know they aren’t dead (and the movie knows you know, since their reintroduction is a perfunctory handful of lines so as to not waste everyone’s time – so it’s the worst of both options).
The last thirty minutes comes down with a serious case of characters just reading the script, like they know “this is the foreshadowing part! We know what’s going to happen in the next movie, so I’d better say these things now. The writers spent all this time building up our baddies, they’re obviously not going to kill them, so I’m going to act as if their survival is obviously guaranteed even though everything is falling apart.”
But by far the worst of this is the denouement. The movie literally makes a joke about its own ending about half an hour before doing exactly that joke thing with a completely straight face. Before the climactic encounter, one of the characters, winking really hard to the audience, straight out says “wouldn’t it be silly if [character] did [thing]! Haha yeah, that would be silly!”. And the end of the movie is [character] doing [thing], but apparently Abrams forgot that this was dumb.
But despite all this, it really doesn’t suck! In fact, it’s kind of awesome! This is mostly thanks to the characters. The characters are awesome. Han’s intro felt forced and the ending was telegraphed a mile away, but everything in between those two moments was perfect. The new cast is all great, too! It has long been said in writerly circles that people read books / watch movies for the characters before anything else, and Force Awakens delivers on that front 1000%.
TL;DR It’s good, but fails in all the ways you have to expect JJ Abrams to fail by this point. Nothing is surprising, the emotional moments usually miss the mark, but it sure is pretty, and manages a few fist-pumping fuck-yeah moments. Not as many as Pacific Rim, for example, but it’s still pretty awesome here and there. And the characters are fun.
I’d appreciate keeping spoilers out of the comments, thank you.
P.S. Kylo Ren needs a haircut. His hair looks like mine when I don’t cut it for a year. He could have a family of rats living in there and no one would know.