International fans and critics get behind the Force

Customers holding lightsabers and dressed as Jedi Knights collecting their tickets at the first public screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London on Dec 16.
Customers holding lightsabers and dressed as Jedi Knights collecting their tickets at the first public screening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in London on Dec 16.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

NEW YORK • The verdicts of fans and critics are nearly unanimous: The Force is strong with the latest Star Wars film.

As Star Wars: The Force Awakens rolled out in cinemas worldwide on Wednesday, it racked up its first award when the American Film Institute named it one of the 10 best films of the year, alongside awards front runners such as the Wall Street misdeeds comedy The Big Short and blockbusters such as the action film Mad Max: Fury Road.

Critics said the much anticipated movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, has breathed new life into the almost 40-year-old franchise.

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter called it "the best Star Wars anything - film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have- you - in at least 32 years".

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times described Abrams as the love child of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

She said Abrams "hasn't made a film only for true believers; he has made a film for everyone (well, almost)".

The Force Awakens, the first of a new trilogy of Star Wars films from Disney after its 2012 purchase of the franchise from Lucas for US$4 billion, takes place 30 years after 1983's Return Of The Jedi, reunites Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill and introduces new characters.

The movie could eventually gross US$2.8 billion (S$4 billion) worldwide, JBL Advisors analyst Jeffrey Logsdon wrote in a research note. That would put it in the same league as the all-time top grosser Avatar, distributed by Fox in 2009.

The movie review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes counted 132 reviews by Wednesday, only four of which were "rotten". Those included one by an underwhelmed Andrew O'Hehir of Salon.com, who said that The Force Awakens is "more like a remake or a mash-up of the first two Star Wars' pictures than a sequel", barely advancing the story of the initial trilogy.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times was also lukewarm, saying that the new movie is "only at its best in fits and starts".

But with the majority of fans and critics giving the film the thumbs- up, cast and crew relished the positive feedback at the movie's European premiere in London.

Newcomer Daisy Ridley, who plays scavenger Rey in the new film, welcomed the reviews, but said there was one audience's views she was still awaiting. "I think it's wonderful that everyone's work has been appreciated," she said. "I just want my family to like it."

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2015, with the headline 'International fans and critics get behind the Force'. Print Edition | Subscribe