Intrigued by the headlines declaring Star Wars record-breaking figures (more than $1 billion and counting worldwide), I took myself off to see the film at my local cinema.
I wish I hadn't bothered and saved myself ten pounds. What's more, I now have no intention of seeing any more instalments in the franchise, nor will I pay to see another movie by director JJ Abrams after this.
Abrams has been credited with reviving the franchise but I think the praise has come too early. I admit I had reservations after Cloverfield, a film so tiresome, I wanted to leave the cinema. And these were borne out by my experience. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is without wit, humour, style or substance. It's like a two-hour long, live-action cartoon aimed at eight year olds. I wanted to be wowed; instead I was left distinctly underwhelmed.
It will be interesting to see how well the next film in the franchise does. While I'm certain the studio will make its money back and then some, I doubt whether it will do as well as this first instalment. Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's arts show Front Row, one commentator called JJ Abrams "a brilliant magpie". I prefer the Jamaican word: "teef". I was so bored, I started ticking off all the movie references - there's the hand-holding sequence from Wall-E (thanks to screenwriter Michael Arndt); there's the Golum-like figure from Lord of the Rings (even played by the same actor Andy Serkis); plus nods to all the original Star Wars films. And acknowledging his icon Steven Spielberg's obsession with father-son relationships, Abrams even manages to shoehorn in a storyline featuring Hans Solo and unlikely offspring Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver).
Yes, there are panoramic landscapes - but not the time to enjoy them. Finn's journey across the desert after his ship crashes feels like a casual stroll down the garden path.
The only time I laughed is when Finn, Rey, Hans Solo and Chewy fly to the rebel base to be greeted by Lupita Nyong'o's character Maz Kanata, who demands, "Where's my boyfriend?" of Chewy. Had Abrams the sense to include a scene of the two of them together. Maybe that will come in the next instalment. If Dame Judy Dench can win an Oscar for her seconds-long appearance in Shakespeare In Love, Nyong'o should at least get a nomination for this.
There are directors who are excellent with actors, and there are those who are great at presenting spectacle. Few directors are equally adept at both and I would not put Abrams in this category. Scene after scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is dispatched with indecent haste, as though the film was edited by someone with ADD - and yet the film still feels overlong. Oscar Isaac, a tour de force in Inside Llewyn Davis, looks like he's just going through the motions here as rebel pilot Poe Dameron. Daisy Ridley makes an unlikely orphaned scavenger, and I have to say Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux is one of the most baffling casting decisions I think I've seen on the big screen.
"Don't give them what they want - show them something they've never seen before," Orson Welles famously said. I have a feeling that it's nostalgia that's driving those record-breaking box office figures. All those fan boys and girls with children of their own are turning up in force for a trip down memory lane. Star Wars: The Force Awakens maybe what the punters want but we've definitely seen it all before.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is in cinemas now