So, how is it really? After all the talk about the movie without having seen it, here comes the first real verdict. No spoilers, promised. In a nutshell: The big hype surrounding the new "Star Wars" wasn't gratuitous.
Shortly after the world premiere on Monday evening (14.12.2015) in Los Angeles, it was declared the "best blockbuster since the first 'Star Wars' movie." Whether this is exaggerated or not, viewers get everything that can be expected from a mega blockbuster in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Thirty years after the return of the Jedi and the death of Darth Vader, the Dark Side of the Force has regained its strength. The Empire is now called the "First Order" and it is hunting down the "Resistance," formerly known as the Rebel Alliance. The new super villain, Supreme Leader Snoke, has a single desire: to track down the last existing Jedi - and destroy him.
The heroes on the light side of the Force obviously want to prevent this. A new trio, made up of the young Rey (Daisy Ridley), the deserted stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and the pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac), fight their way through space, following the established conventions. They are accompanied by good old familiar faces, mainly Han Solo (Harrison Ford, who is now aged 73) and his faithful companion, the Wookiee Chewbacca.
Rarely laughed so much
Although Han Solo has clearly aged, he still acts like a 30-year-old - but that doesn't make his character awkward. Instead, he pokes fun at himself. It is probably the first "Star Wars" film to make people laugh this much. The action is never interrupted through long dialogues; lively banter alternates with the mandatory battle and chase scenes. However, this may seem too shallow for the fans of the philosophical aspects of the previous episodes.
The young male protagonists are pleasing characters. There's Stormtrooper Finn, who realizes during an attack on a rebel colony that he no longer wants to be a soldier and survives the following combat through more luck than strategy. There's also the cheeky resistance pilot Poe, who meets the worst adversaries with snappy mockery. This character could have even been given more color - his potential has not (yet?) been fully developed.
Daisy Ridley is excellent in the role of the young Rey, who collects scrap on a barren desert planet and suddenly becomes the new hope in the fight against evil. More particularly, one quickly suspects that she might... - well, more should not be revealed yet.
Please, no spoilers
The word "spoilers" was particularly popular these days. Especially during press viewings, film critics were asked not to reveal anything concrete before the hardcore fans get to see the film. The author of this text will also play by those rules and dare divulge this much:
The "Star Wars" recipe works once again, as its creators know its ingredients very well. Ultra villains take on brave heroes; there are funny little droids and lots of explosions. Add to that the return of the classic cult characters, which will make "Star Wars" fans feel at home.
Very few new settings, techniques and characters were introduced, which adds to the feeling of continuity of the saga. Viewers will not need to decipher complicated new worlds, as was sometimes the case in episodes I to III. Fans will have an enjoyable feeling of déjà-vu.
Refreshing humor was introduced, and pathos was reduced. Even when the shocking climax of the story takes place, it is not turned into a long tear-jerking scene.
Director J.J. Abrams, who isn't a newcomer in intergalactic tales - he directed the latest "Star Trek" too - carefully followed the footsteps of his predecessor George Lucas. Most importantly, he kept to the well-known "Star Wars" look.
He did not try to reinvent the battle scenes, but integrated the most innovative techniques to create accelerated chase scenes and even more daring stunts. This works extremely well in 3D, as star fighters and enemy ships literally surround you. Things explode, crash and burn in every possible angle.
Two new episodes to come in 2017 and 2019
Disney, who acquired the rights to the "Star Wars" franchise in 2012, publicly announced its plan to produce two more films every two years.
After this first part of the third trilogy, fans can rest assured: Even if Disney now has "the Force" in its hands, it did not turn the cult series into a cute space adventure with big-eyed droids, tragic heroes and a sugar-coated love story, as many people feared.
Disney succeeded similarly with the fast-paced "Pirates of the Caribbean." Unfortunately, the sequels were never as good as the first movie. Let's hope the "Star Wars" saga will not face the same fate.
The end of the seventh film is very promising. Although the final scene is not very surprising, it still makes you want to see "Star Wars - Episode VIII."