Star Wars: The Force Awakens...
Firstly I went into the movie with incredibly low expectations... I remembered what JJ Abrams did with Star Trek, so I was reserving judgement but wasn't expecting a lot.
Secondly, I have actively been avoiding additional information about this movie, which includes literally sitting in movie theatres with my fingers in my ears so that I didn't see any trailers other than the first one. And that one I only watched once.
I wanted to go into the movie completely cold, without having seen three quarters of the movie cut into a million trailers, and I didn't want to know any spoilers or clues, however mild.
But even taking all of that into account... I was incredibly impressed by this movie.
Unlike something like Jurassic World where they just seemed to go through the movie with find and replace, this felt more like they'd taken everything that made the original three movies great, broken it down into individual components and put it all back together in a new order. I don't know if that's technically the definition of "fan service", but whatever it's called, it was very successful.
At the same time it has a thoroughly modern vibe to it... there's a lot more action and the whole thing feels highly polished.
The new cast is pretty great over all. Although for me it comes down to Daisy Ridley as Rey and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren... they're both sensational in their roles... particularly Ridley, who really kicks ass... but Driver is a villain you can both hate and feel empathy for.
I do feel that John Boyega was less successful as Finn...he feels much less like a Star Wars character and much more like an Abrams character if that makes sense. Not that Boyega was bad, it just felt like he was in a different style of movie to everyone else.
I was also unsure how I'd feel about the new droid on the block, BB-8... but within the first thirty seconds of his appearance on screen I was already kind of in love with him.
There were some massively underused characters however... but I'm guessing that they will reappear in the next two movies.
And the cast returning from the original trilogy was a little bit of a mixed bag... Harrison Ford was right on the money, but Carrie Fisher was the most changed by the passage of time and was a little difficult to watch.
Also I felt like there was a slight fuzzing of the camera every time she was onscreen, but that could have been my imaginiation.
The story was strong as I said, and in parts genuinely laugh out loud funny. Much funnier than I remember the original trilogy being.
It also looks the part, both as a Star Wars movie, but also as a modern sci-fantasy movie. Everything has that sufficient amount of upgrade to the design (like the Stormtrooper armour) but it didn't go totally over the top with everything like the prequels.
Also, there's a lot more practical effects evident here... sure there's a ton of CGI, but there's a lot of puppets (which sometimes work more effectively than others... but the same can be said for the CGI), excellent makeup work and just stuff that's actually on screen.
The CGI I objected to the most was Andy Serkis's character... it was questionable as to why it couldn't have just been an outstanding makeup design... it just sticks out too much and doesn't feel necessary.
I was also genuinely surprised by parts of this movie... partly because I hadn't been reviewing every time little additional information about it, but there was stuff I didn't know going in that surprised me. However it did also suffer a little bit from the "first movie in a trilogy" syndrome... the original Star Wars was a pretty self contained movie.
Sure it left a few loose threads, but mostly everything got settled before the credits... here, there's clearly so many additional balls in the air at the end that it's kind of scary.
Is it a perfect movie, not in the slightest, but it did make me pretty damn happy for the majority of the 135 minute running time and it's a pretty damn good Star Wars movie.
And I was more than pleasantly surprised.
yani's rating: 4 hologram maps out of 5