Art and visuals, as well as sound design and music, are all 5-stars.
The style of art direction – from costumes to accessories to settings to the soundtrack, are perfectly matched to the late 70s. This was a really nice difference from some other sci-fi franchises’ poorly conceived art direction decisions (#EnterpriseFailures).
Digital imaging technology combined with digital voice replacement and nice ADR work allowed for fans to have several nice surprise reunions with familiar faces. Vader has (I believe) four scenes, and James Earl Jones got work in at least two of them (Vader spoke).
The action was –I have to admit– all that it was cracked up to be. Battle scenes make this a true war movie, without the over-the-top effects gratuity that plagued some of the prequels. Very well done indeed!
Story-wise, I give her another 5 stars...or 4.75 if I am allowed to split stars.
I like the fact that the Alliance slash Rebel Command are NOT one-hundred percent goody-two-shoes good guy heroes in this one...they can at times ALMOST come across as –dare I say– villainous (!) and, yes, even cowardly.
Which leads me to the next section: this is NOT JUST a kids’ movie. FINALLY a Star Wars for Grown-Ups...which really has relevance to me as a writer and novelist.
It was walking out of Phantom Menace as a thirty-year-old that motivated me to write my first epic sci-fi story which eventually became NIGHTFALL: BOOK ONE OF THE NIGHTSONG SPACE OPERA. It was not because Phantom Menace inspired and motivated me, it was because it disappointed me so. You see, I had grown-up since Return of the Jedi...but my beloved franchise was still being written for nine-year-olds. So I decided then and there to write a Star Wars For Grown-Ups. After beginning literary life as a TV pilot manuscript, Ray Bradbury (who read it) told me to convert NIGHTFALL into a novel. I did...it only took me fifteen years.
This is not an entirely PERFECT review, however. There are things I am unhappy about...it’s just that they don’t rise to the level of earning the movie a demerit of a single star, considering the whole.
There were three VERY COOL things we all saw in the trailers that DID NOT MAKE the final cut...a practice I shall entirely OUTLAW as soon as I am made Emperor. Since this is spoiler-free, I will not name them, but you will reflect on them as you walk out of the theater the first time you see this near-masterpiece (especially if you then go back to YouTube and re-watch the trailers afterward).
It had been widely discussed on the fan circuit –long before the movie’s release– that these particular heroes were never to be seen again in the later movies, such as A New Hope...and therefore were more than just a little expendable.
Having said that, I was still annoyed by the deaths of two named characters (no, not the two you’re thinking) that I have to say served entirely NO PURPOSE beyond cleaning up loose ends for the storyline. They LITERALLY had absolutely no logical reason to perform the actions that led to their deaths. Meaning that –though their earlier actions were all both logical AND heroic– their final acts (that resulted in their deaths) had no discernible purpose or goal...except to get them killed. So they were killed strictly by the writers’ pen...which was both bad writing and an unfortunate loss, as both could well have served in later continuing storyline or later side projects...even if only new expanded universe books.
Finally, I am also unhappy to report that Lucasfilm (despite both being picked up by Disney) has not yet adopted Marvel’s propensity for mid-credit or post-credit stingers...there are no late bonuses. I myself could think of two or three scenes that would have been nice additions to the ending. But it simply ends, right as A New Hope begins; so close on, that one can almost see the backstory-scroll start.