It’s here: a rundown on the critical consensus (updated)

Update: Metacritic seems to have settled at 81, keeping it in the category of “Universal acclaim”, while Rotten Tomatoes rates the film “Certified fresh” and currently has it sitting at 95%. Meanwhile, the AFI has named The Force Awakens one of the 10 most outstanding movies of 2015.

Stripping away the hype, it seems we’re still left with a genuinely good Star Wars movie at least on par with Return of the Jedi and miles ahead of even the best of the prequels, full of delightful moments that return the series to its foundation of wonder and whimsy. What this ultimately means is that we finally have a true continuation of what was set up in Episodes IV, V and VI, with the Star Wars galaxy once again promising new adventures and stories in a way it hasn’t since 1983.

Original article below…

Well, the critics have now seen The Force Awakens, and the consensus seems pretty clear: this is a solid 4-star film at the very least, returning Star Wars to the heights of the original trilogy, even if it does tread old ground. Right now it sits at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and at 81 on Metacritic (i.e. “Universal acclaim”).

Just pause for a moment and soak that in. This is a genuine follow-up to Return of the Jedi that can proudly sit alongside Episodes IV, V and VI of the Star Wars saga, as well as the purposeful entry-point to a new mega-franchise.

OK, have you revelled in that long enough? Are you ready for the (spoiler-free) rundown? Here we go…

Variety:

In the end, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” suggests the work of a filmmaker who faced the exciting yet unenviable task of partially reassembling one of the most beloved ensembles in movie history, furthering their characters’ adventures in a meaningful fashion, and helping them pass the baton from one generation of action figures to the next — and emerged, in the end, with a compromise solution that, even when it’s not firing on all cylinders, has been put across with sufficient style, momentum, love and care to prove irresistible to any who have ever considered themselves fans.

The Hollywood Reporter:

The Force is back. Big time. As the best Star Wars anything — film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have-you — in at least 32 years, Star Wars: The Force Awakens pumps new energy and life into a hallowed franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions. But whereas the fundamental touchstones of George Lucas’ original creation remain, in director J.J. Abrams’ hands there is a shift in tone that brings the material closer to the feel of a Steven Spielberg film.

Los Angeles Times:

Perhaps inevitably, this, the most hotly anticipated motion picture since “Gone With the Wind,” has an erratic, haphazard quality to it. Though a definite improvement on the last three abortive “Star Wars” prequels directed by series creator George Lucas, “The Force Awakens” is only at its best in fits and starts, its success dependent on who of its mix of franchise veterans and first-timers is on the screen.

New York Times:

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).

San Francisco Chronicle:

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was already destined to become the movie event of the year, but few could have predicted this: The seventh installment in the series, started by George Lucas in 1977, is the best “Star Wars” sequel yet and one of the best films of 2015.

Telegraph [UK]: Five stars

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.

Times [UK]: Five stars

The Force is resoundingly with J J Abrams’s cracking reboot of Star Wars. 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.

Guardian: Five stars

In fact, Star Wars has now gone beyond the sci-fi genre to its own kind of intergalactic quasi-Arthurian romance: that and a return to the world of Saturday morning pictures. The Force Awakens is ridiculous and melodramatic and sentimental of course, but exciting and brimming with energy and its own kind of generosity. What a Christmas present.

Chicago Sun-Times: Four stars (out of four)

What a beautiful, thrilling, joyous, surprising and heart-thumping adventure this is. “The Force Awakens” pops with memorable battle sequences, gives us chills with encore appearances by stars from the original trilogy and introduces more than a half-dozen terrific Next Generation characters.

Independent [UK]: Four stars (out of five)

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. So let’s not let ourselves get too bloody internet-y about it and start it tearing to pieces and enjoy what is a fun, well-executed and thoroughly corrective sequel.

Entertainment Weekly: B+

The wait is over. You, or that special someone you love, can stop panting into that brown paper bag and finally relax because there are about to be a lot of very happy Star Wars fans out there. 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.

HitFix:

It must have seemed like a nearly-impossible task when JJ Abrams and his collaborators set out to bring “Star Wars” back to life, but they’ve more than done it. They’ve made something honest and beautiful and, above all, fun, and I find myself energized by the movie and by the promise it represents. Maybe one day we’ll climb all those distant mountains, only to see another range on another horizon, one that will be there for another generation of storytellers. For the first time in a long time, I believe wholeheartedly again in that galaxy a long time ago and far, far away, and I am eager to return as many times as possible.

And if that’s not enough, both The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline are speculating about The Force Awakens being nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Yes, really.

In four hours, The Force Awakens opens in Sydney. I’ll be seeing it with friends in 48 hours’ time, so expect my full review on Saturday.

Enjoy this time. It’s been 32 years coming. Star Wars is back, and the fun is just beginning…

Stay tuned…

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