Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already setting massive records at the box office. Its giant gross this weekend is assured. It will be the biggest movie released in 2015, and may even be the biggest movie of all time.
But will it be good?
To a certain extent, the quality doesn't matter. The Force Awakens will draw fans in droves who are thirsty for more Star Wars after years without. Part of that need for more is exacerbated by the mediocre prequel trilogy. Truly, the last great Star Wars is over 30 years old.
So The Force Awakens' goal isn't to be as good as the original films, but better than the prequels. On that front, victory is all but assured — and there are seven reasons why.
George Lucas isn't involved.
This is obvious, but it can't be overstated. Lucas may have been the director of the original Star Wars film and the mastermind behind the franchise, but his direction of the three prequels was nearly universally deplored. "George Lucas ruined Star Wars" was not an uncommon sentiment to read. His biggest accomplishment in the 21st century was introducing unanimously loathed characters like Jar Jar Binks.
For this new trilogy, Lucas is taking a major backseat. He doesn't seem to be having the easiest time with it, telling the Washington Post, "I gotta go to the wedding. My ex will be there, my new wife will be there, but I'm going to have to take a very deep breath and be a good person and sit through it and just enjoy the moment, because it is what it is and it's a conscious decision that I made." But for the overall health of the franchise, said decision was the right one.
J.J. Abrams is instead — and he gets space.
Lucas turned over the reins to Star Trek director J.J. Abrams — a man who clearly knows about space. He was an inspired choice to take over; likely one of the only people who would be as attentive to the details of the science fiction as he would be attentive to the greater scope.
Most comfortingly, Abrams is a big fan of the original three films. He's been diplomatic about the prequels, as seen in an interview with /film, but his source of inspiration is clear. "The prequels had a different but apparently equally powerful draw for so many people, and in some cases a more powerful draw," he told /film. "What I loved about the original trilogy is how real it felt."
The cast reflects what a modern galaxy far, far away would look like.
If The Force Awakens had filled its ranks with all white, mostly male performers, it would have been an expected disappointment. Why would Hollywood's biggest blockbuster not represent Hollywood's crippling diversity problem? Credit Abrams and his team for not just doing better but blowing expectations out of the water. Several of the main protagonists and antagonists are women and people of color. Even the former Princess Leia has received a promotion to general, befitting her military prowess. Representing what the Star Wars fanbase really looks like, beyond just white men, means a lot for those fans seeking to find themselves in the film's universe.
There's respect for the fans.
That respect for fans goes beyond just the casting. Everything about this film seems designed to please the diehards, from the inclusion of veterans to even the marketing approach.
"I actually personally pushed to have a teaser come out a year before, just because it felt like, as a fan of Star Wars, if I could see even the littlest thing I'd be psyched a year out," Abrams told Wired. "Why not? So we did." That tease had fans on the edge of their seats for a year — and this weekend, they'll finally be satisfied.
The reviews are astounding.
Critics' opinions aren't everything, of course, but it is encouraging when they're so unanimously excited. 95% on Rotten Tomatoes makes it this weekend's top new wide release. These reviews would indicate that not only is The Force Awakens good for fans, it's also a good movie on its own.
The film is being treated like an event.
As Abrams told Wired, the choice to release a teaser a year in advance was a conscious one. That made this past year, more or less, a giant run-up to the release. The Force Awakens took over San Diego Comic-Con, D23 and more. It's been an immense hype cycle, and that will likely be the main factor (beyond the existing fanbase) for its giant box office take.
The future of the franchise is bright.
Beyond The Force Awakens, the Star Wars franchise has two main episodes and several spinoffs ahead. Those spinoffs will be directed by men other than Abrams: Rian Johnson for the eighth installment and Colin Trevorrow for the ninth. With a fantastic cast, new visionaries taking the helm and Disney's investment in revitalizing the universe, this trilogy will have a far happier ending than the prequels. Star Wars is sticking around for a long, long time.