With a crowd-rousing ferocity, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has arrived to the masses hopeful for its potential after a prequel trilogy has diminished the reputation of the long-beloved franchise, wanting to forget how creator George Lucas has driven his namesake into the ground. By the end of Awakens, that betrayal feels felt anew due to all that director JJ Abrams and his screenwriting crew of Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt have done to successfully right the ship, and also bucking disheartening trends in populist entertainment. If you’ve heard that this one is great, you haven’t been misled.
Bursting with spirit and emphasis on character, Awakens is remarkably satisfying entertainment – to those waiting for those massive crowds to die down: you simply must see this with a crowd. Enough to stir conversation in even the most typically ambivalent audience, we have here a crowd-pleaser aiming more for our hearts than our heartrates, and becomes all the more thrilling for its ability to invest us in its particulars. In an age where character and stakes take a further backseat to increasingly absurd, conxtext-free bombast (for which the Star Wars prequels take massive flak, with current examples like Jurassic World even more guilty than those lackluster films), Abrams’ film feels almost subversive in its steadfast focus on character to get us cheering. For a director often teased for his forcing his aesthetic unnecessarily, here he is sharply attuned to the needs of the narrative – unquestionably, his best work.