We first saw The Force Awakens on the Friday night of the 18th in 2D at the Empire Cinema in Rubery, Birmingham. The wife can’t see 3D, so we chose to not bother with it for the first viewing.
The wife and I are big Star Wars fans and the kids have grown up with LEGO Star Wars and the prequels, so we all had high expectations knowing that early reviews were positive.
We weren’t disappointed. The storytelling in The Force Awakens was skilfully crafted with no clumsy exposition. While revealing very little of their back story, we still grew in a short time to care about the new lead characters Rey, Finn and Poe Damaron. In fact the story left many open questions, which is one of the reasons why we’re now hungry for more new Star Wars.
Revisiting old favourite star wars characters was a huge pleasure. Seeing Han, Chewie and Leia again was very moving. As was seeing the droids and the familiar machines like the X-wings and TIE fighters and, of course, the Falcon.
There was a plethora of new characters and machines to enjoy, too. The First Order Stormtroopers come in a variety of types wearing cool, new armour. Captain Phasma, played by (Game of Thrones’ Brienne) Gwendoline Christie has the coolest. She is one of several strong female characters in the story, which is a positive contrast to the original trilogy.
The new non-human creatures are varied and interesting and the new droid BB-8 is a real technical marvel. Just one of many practical effects from which the movie benefits and for which it has been praised.
One element of the storytelling we enjoyed was the humour. This is one of the tools JJ Abrahams uses to endear the characters to us. Harrison Ford, I felt, had a good share of the fun and he appeared to relish it.
The pace was fast and most everything about the movie was exciting. The story, characters, visuals, sound and music all came together to make The Force Awakens the spectacular experience we had hoped it would be.
My only real criticism was that the plot was too derivative of the original Star Wars.
Knowing we were having a second viewing made the first less ‘critical’. It wasn’t so important that I catch every frame of the movie, and I could relax knowing that I would get a second chance to enjoy it.
We saw the movie again on the following Sunday. This time at the 3D IMAX screen at Cineworld, NEC.
In row C, the third row back, we were sat too close to the screen. So close, in fact, that we could see the pixels in areas of white (of which there were plenty). This definitely spoiled our experience. However, the sound was much better than at the Empire cinema. It was deeper, fuller and louder. Much better. And the movie was DEFINITELY better in 3D. In one establishing shot, a Star Destroyer felt like it was so close to me, I could reach out and touch it. It was astonishing.
Second time round, I think I enjoyed the experience more. The characters were already familiar, I caught more of the background detail, and despite knowing what was coming, I still got invested in the story.
My advice would be to book the movie twice. Give it a couple of days between viewings so you have time to digest the first. And definitely watch the movie at a 3D IMAX, sitting at least half way back.