Note: this was written way back on 12/19/2015. Not sure why I never published it. Probably because it was incomplete and not very interesting.
Thursday evening, I noticed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was playing everywhere already. Huh? Didn't it have a release date of Friday the 18th? And don't these kinds of premieres happen at midnight?
Since my days of seeing midnight shows are long behind me, I had paid little attention -- I planned to see it early the following week. But the idea of seeing a 9 or 10 PM show on opening night sounded do-able, tickets were available, and I was suddenly seized with the urge to see it right away. I sent a text message to a friend to see if he wanted to catch it, but I didn't hear back. Discouraged, I went to bed early. But I hadn't killed the impulse -- I thought to myself, "well, it's playing all night long, pretty much every hour. Maybe if I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll catch an early show before work."
Friday, I woke up at about 3:15 AM and went to the bathroom. It was decided - the desire to see this movie was gnawing at me, and I wasn't going to be able to get back to sleep. So I pulled on my pants and drove to the mall to clock in at the 4:00 AM show. Good call! There were like, 5 other people in the theater. I even answered a Star Wars trivia question and won a surprisingly nice Darth Vader bathrobe. Score!
So, much of what I said in my "pre-review" below was right: the film had a great set of diverse and interesting new characters played by charismatic young actors, the production design and action was strong, and the film had a brisk pace and style. The biggest letdown was that it is essentially a remake of the first two Star Wars movies. But the film was infused with some emotional resonance that came from an unexpected source in the main villain. In the end, it mirrored the best of its predecessors: it was an entertaining popcorn movie.