Verdict: Four stars (from a maximum of five). No spoilers.
I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to - I had read a number of adverse reviews and only went along in a family group. But I found the movie consistently enjoyable and sometimes touching.
It was also a different kind of movie than I had expected, and this was something I hadn't seen mentioned in reviews - which is why I am writing one.
The reason I did not give the movie five stars was because the plotting was both clunky and improbable; however, this film was not about plot, nor about action - it was about relationships. The plot served only to move the characters into interesting personal situations.
The clue is that the main scriptwriter for Force Awakens was Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote some very good 'group' movies back in the 80s, including The Big Chill - which was one of the best and most influential films of that era, extremely skillful in its writing for an ensemble. If we think of Force Awakens as 'The Big Chill in Space' that is a clue to where the focus - or heart - of the movie is located.
Time and again, the movie had scenes which somewhat surprised me in their direction and content - always in the direction of an emotional twist or punch. The cast and direction was very good, the new villain an interesting Snape-like character - and the use of the old actors from the first Star Wars to reprise their aged selves was effective and touching: adding a layer of references and feelings, rather than merely exploiting the link.
Altogether, this struck me as an honest, decent movie - by people who were doing their best to make it a high quality production. The level of detail - in, for example, the minor and background characters, events and incidents was generous and respectful.
In sum - I feel the the adverse or unenthusiastic reviews I had seen missed the point of the movie, judged it by inappropriate criteria, and failed to see it for what it is. TFA isn't Blade Runner (but then again, what is...) but it is a good and worthwhile movie.
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