Star Wars: The Force Awakens – what the critics are saying

A still from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
A still from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
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STAR WARS: The Force Awakens was released in UK cinemas today, and fans’ first impressions of the JJ Abrams-directed film have been almost universally positive – but what do the critics think?

THE VERDICT

“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.” Christopher Hooton, The Independent

“This seventh movie is a humongous piece of cinema — all that a sequel should be and more: a nostalgic homage to the 1977 original, coupled with intergalactic, warp-speed, panoramic blockbuster action, and a new heroine in the form of Daisy Ridley’s Rey.” Kate Muir, The Times

“When you’ve been charged with reviving one of the most obsessively beloved franchises in modern movies, is it better to defy expectations or to meet them? With Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams splits the difference, and the movie suffers—in the end, it’s perfectly adequate, hitting every beat. But why settle for adequacy?” Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

“The Force Awakens is ridiculous and melodramatic and sentimental of course, but exciting and brimming with energy and its own kind of generosity.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“This, undoubtedly, is the movie that fans wanted, the movie that fans deserve. And it’s only fitting that it is, beneath the scintillating action and striking world-building, a film about parents and children, about the effects of one generation on the next, about legacy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be viewed and passed down for many years to come.” Jamie Graham, Total Film

“The big news about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is — spoiler alert — that it’s good! Despite the prerelease hype, it won’t save the world, not even Hollywood, but it seamlessly balances cozy favorites — Harrison Ford, ladies and gentlemen — and new kinetic wows along with some of the niceties that went missing as the series grew into a phenomenon, most crucially a scale and a sensibility that is rooted in the human.” Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“If you were to make a list of the essential ingredients of a Star Wars film, you would find almost all in J.J. Abrams’ wake-up call to this sleeping giant of a franchise.” Helen O’Hara, Empire

“J.J. Abrams’The Force Awakens delivers exactly what you want it to: rollicking adventure wrapped in epic mythology, a perfect amount of fan service that fires your geekiest synapses, and a just-right cliffhanger ending that paves the way for future installments.” Chris Nashawatay, Entertainment Weekly

NOSTALGIA

“Adults will be floored by tearful nostalgia because this is a classic.” Kate Muir, The Times

“The Force Awakens re-awoke my love of the first movie and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. There are very few films which leave me facially exhausted after grinning for 135 minutes, but this is one.” Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

“Of the old triangle, here making fan-pleasing returns, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) set bottom lips a-trembling whenever they share the screen, while Luke (Mark Hamill)… well, that would be telling.” Jamie Graham, Total Film

“It is unbelievably good to see Han (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) back together again.” Helen O’Hara, Empire

“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.” Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

THE CAST

“The wry, grizzled soul of the movie is Han Solo (Harrison Ford), who returns with his furry sidekick Chewbacca. Chewbacca hasn’t aged a bit; Han, on the other hand, looks like he’s been ’round the galaxy a few hundred times, but damned if he doesn’t wear it well.” Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

“Ridley in particular emerges as the star of the show, particularly as the no-nonsense Rey repeatedly shirks off all attempts to confine her to the role of damsel in distress.” Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman

“John Boyega is splendid as repentant former stormtrooper Finn, but the real star of the show – a show which makes rather a point of championing women’s strength over men – is Keira Knightley lookalike Daisy Ridley.” Brian Vitter, Daily Mail

• READ MORE: An in-depth guide to Star Wars: The Force Awakens

“But it’s Driver’s Kylo Ren who steals the show, a match for Darth Maul when sporting his car-grill mask, and something else entirely when he removes it.” Jamie Graham, Total Film

“Kylo Ren, the best villain that the franchise has ever produced. He’s not just a worthy heir to Vader; he may be more interesting.” - Helen O’Hara, Empire

“Among the strongest creations of Team Abrams, Kylo Ren is a kind of baby Darth Vader who throws tantrums in inky-black robes while wearing a leather-and-metal-head appliance that looks like a domination mask by way of the grille of a 1952 Chevy.” - Manhola Dargis, NY Times

JJ ABRAMS

“George Lucas did such a thorough job of draining any joy from his original creation with those ponderous, airless, horribly acted prequels that the prospect of being confronted with a movie attuned to the things that made audiences fall unconditionally in love with the original trilogy seemed unlikely. But that’s what JJ Abrams delivers with Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Alistair Harkness, The Scotsman

“At a certain point, however, “The Force Awakens” feels so determined to fashion a contemporary echo of the original trilogy that it becomes almost too reverential — or riff-erential, given Abrams’ fondness for playing on recognizable tropes, themes and plot points in his film and TV work.” Justin Chang, Variety

“It transpires JJ Abrams wasn’t just conscious he needed to stick to the style of the originals, he was obsessive about it.” Christopher Hooton, The Independent

“In the end, Star Wars: The Force Awakens feels like the work of a very capable student, one who has studied his subject so diligently and thoroughly that he knows what to do and what to avoid, is smart enough to have engaged one of the experts in the field, in this case Kasdan, to work on the blueprint, and to have ensured that another of the key contributor to the series’ success, John Williams, would return again after all the years.” Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Mr. Abrams may be as worshipful as any “Star Wars” obsessive, but in “The Force Awakens” he’s made a movie that goes for old-fashioned escapism even as it presents a futuristic vision of a pluralistic world that his audience already lives in. He hasn’t made a film only for true believers; he has made a film for everyone (well, almost).” Manhola Dargis, NY Times

“Forget the overstuffed, over-polished, over-pixelated, underwhelming prequels by George Lucas. The look and feel of J.J. Abrams’ seventh episode in the beloved space saga is just what fans have been waiting for since 1983’s Return of the Jedi. It’s time to party like an Ewok: the Force is strong with this one.” Jamie Graham, Total Film