December 16, 2015 / 4:01 PM / 4 years ago

Praise galore for 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens'

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The verdict is nearly unanimous: The Force is strong with this one.

People dressed in costumes worn by Star Wars characters pose in front of the Zoo Palast cinema before the German premiere of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" in Berlin, Germany, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” won rave reviews on Wednesday with critics saying it has breathed new life into the almost 40 year-old franchise that has spawned three original movies and three prequels.

As the much anticipated Disney movie, directed by J.J. Abrams, opened to the public in many European cities, Peter Bradshaw of British newspaper The Guardian called it “a spectacular homecoming.”

For entertainment industry publication The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy called it “the best ‘Star Wars’ anything — film, TV show, video game, spinoff, what-have-you — in at least 32 years.” The movie, McCarthy said “pumps new energy and life into a hallowed franchise in a way that both resurrects old pleasures and points in promising new directions.”

“The Force Awakens,” the first of a new trilogy of “Star Wars” films from Disney after its 2012 purchase of the franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion, takes place 30 years after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi” and re-unites original cast members Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill as well as introducing new characters.

The movie, which opens in the United States on Thursday, could eventually gross $2.8 billion worldwide, JBL Advisors analyst Jeffrey Logsdon wrote in a research note. That would put it in the same league as all-time top grosser “Avatar,” distributed by Fox in 2009.

“That giant wheezing sound you hear is a collective sigh of relief, heaved by now-legion generations of ‘Star Wars’ fans, from toddlers to their grandparents, who can rest assured that the Force is still with the franchise they grew up on or grew old with,” The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday said.

Movie review aggregator website RottenTomatoes.com counted 132 reviews by Wednesday, only four of which were “rotten.”

Those included an underwhelmed Andrew O’Hehir at Salon.com who said “The Force Awakens” was “more like a remake or a mashup of the first two ‘Star Wars’ pictures than a sequel” and that it barely advances the story of the initial trilogy.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times was also lukewarm, saying that the new movie was “only at its best in fits and starts.”

But the majority of reviews were unusually effusive.

“What a beautiful, thrilling, joyous, surprising and heart-thumping adventure this is,” wrote Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times.

“The Force Awakens” pops with memorable battle sequences, gives us chills with encore appearances by stars from the original trilogy and introduces more than a half-dozen terrific Next Generation characters.”

Reporting by Jill Serjeant in New York and Devika Krishna Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski

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