There was a Biblical flood of reviews of The Force Awakens after the review embargo was lifted at 3:00am on Wednesday. Fans of the first trilogy breathed a sigh of relief when they awoke that morning: nearly all of the reviews were positive. The film currently posts a 95% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 on the more discerning Metacritic.
That doesn’t mean the film doesn’t have its dissenters. Of the 204 reviews counted by Rotten Tomatoes, ten are negative. Those ten reviews are remarkably consistent in deriding the film for being derivative of its predecessors, calling it a “glib facsimile” of A New Hope, for “delivering everything we expect,” and for “not blazing its own path.”
What’s interesting about the negative reviews is that what they isolate as the film’s biggest weakness—it’s ceaseless conformity to the expectations of the franchise’s rabid fandom—is what the majority of the positive reviews argue is its greatest strength. As Will Leitch wrote in his review for the New Republic, “Abrams is a fan, like we are, and he approaches Star Wars with the exact right mix of awe and purpose.”
But even many of the positive reviews ding Abrams for sometimes being too much of a fan. Here’s Leitch again: “The movie only occasionally slips into too much fan service.” The headline on Vox’s review is “This film feels committee-approved to delight fans.” And The AV Club’s A.A. Dowd wrote fans are “going to love it because it’s been made to their exact specifications, relayed through years of constructive criticism and very vocal bellyaching.”
So everyone seems to agree that the film is deeply satisfying, there’s just some dissent about where it’s good that it’s deeply satisfying. Or almost everyone. The National Review stayed on message and slammed the film’s supposed “Social Justice Warrior” agenda.