We probably shouldn’t have worried, but there was always the chance that despite the incredible hype and anticipation, Star Wars: The Force Awakens would turn out to be a creative flop. But the early reviews are in ahead of the movie’s official December 18 release, and according to Rotten Tomatoes, we’re in for a treat.
As I type this, The Force Awakens holds a 95% based on 197 reviews — 187 positive, 10 negative. That’s not just “Certified Fresh,” it’s downright outstanding.
To put that score in perspective, the most-loved Star Wars movies so far have been the first two. Both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back currently sit at 94 percent (I say currently because Rotten Tomatoes has counted some retro reviews done in the run-up to The Force Awakens, meaning those scores could still change ever so slightly), which is about as close to universal appeal as you can get. On the flip side, the series’ low water mark was Episode I, certified rotten with a score of just 56 percent.
That means even if weekend reviews push the score down to some extent, we’re already much closer to classic territory than we are to mediocrity, a good sign for anyone who’s been anxious for another truly great addition to the saga. The consensus summary for the movie reads like this:
"Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy."
Want more insight without venturing into spoiler territory. Rotten Tomatoes always pulls a fun quote from its top critics for its movie pages. Bob Mondello of NPR had this to say about The Force Awakens:
"All you really want to know is whether it’s good, right? Well, in fact, it is better than it had to be."
One criticism of the film that has sprung up, even among its admirers, is that it follows the road map laid out by the original much more than it breaks new ground. Here’s Michelle Alexandria of Eclipse Magazine with her thoughts on that front:
"A near perfect Star Wars film that regular fans and fanatics alike have been waiting for, but it suffers by slavishly sticking to the tropes from the original and doesn’t strive to go off script."
And as noted, there were some dissenters who didn’t care for it at all. Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail was one of the three Top Critics to give The Force Awakens a rotten review, rating it 2.5 out of 4 stars.
"Some may thrill with delighted recognition at the spectacle of yet another primal duel fought over a great void. Others, though, may know that the real test of myth-making lies in an ability not to repeat but to reinvent."
The guess here is that once opening weekend has come and gone, the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes score will settle a few points below the originals but still comfortably above everything Return of the Jedi (80 percent) and lower. I’m not sure about you, but I’d be alright with that.