Including 3-D and IMAX. So I guess I liked it.
This is not a regular Star Wars movie. And that's part of what I like about it. The opening scene, after no crawl, is a wedge of grey cutting across the sky. For a split second you think it might be an Imperial Star Destroyer, just like it all started back in 1977. But it's not, it's the rings to a planet. It's just these little cues that remind you you're in the Star Wars universe but it's not a typical Star Wars story. Things are uneasy here, tense. Hell, every hero in this movie might end up dying! (Spoiler Alert!)
Okay, I won't rehash the plot. I assume everyone knows it by now. It's the story of the Rebellion's first victory, stealing the Death Star plans and setting up the original STAR WARS (aka, Episode IV: A NEW HOPE.) But it's a grittier story that gives names and faces to the unnamed heroes who would've been receiving medals on Yavin if only they had survived. It's also a story that changes the pre-existing Star Wars universe in some pretty big ways.
For starters, while the Empire is still totally evil, the Rebel Alliance is no longer totally good. They are rebels--spies, murderers, and saboteurs who have sacrificed everything (including their morals) for the cause. Star Wars is no longer a totally black vs. totally white thing. There are shades of gray.
They also aren't super geniuses who discovered a fatal flaw in the Death Star. The flaw was designed in by the chief scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who didn't want to build the thing in the first place. And the rebels were told of it, they just needed to figure out how to deliver a payload to it.
Despite Leia's pleas, Alderaan was not a peaceful planet with no weapons. It was the home to a major leader of the rebellion--her adopted father--who died after announcing "I trust her with my life."
All in all, I don't think I can ever watch the original STAR WARS in the same way again. And that's not bad, it makes it a richer, more nuanced experience. Except that STAR WARS is an experience from my childhood, where deep nuanced meaning is kind of irrelevant. Oh, well, you can't be a kid forever.
What else to comment on? Oh yeah, CGI Tarkin. I...liked it. Not necessary, a big pile of fan service, but fan service that was relevant to the plot (perhaps not having Tarkin, or having a different actor as Tarkin, would be more distracting.) CGI Leia a bit less so. That's pure fan service, but at least joyfully done.
Oh yeah, and we finally remember why Darth Vader was scary. He's a freakin' badass again! Especially that last sequence, the only time a light saber appears in the movie is when he's mowing down rebel troops on his way to recovering the plans. I know he's evil, but that scene was amazing!
I still think the first few acts jump around so quickly that it's a little difficult to know what to hang onto (on the second and third viewing, it's not so hard.) But the last act, the whole battle of Scarif was magnificent, breathtaking, heart-pounding fun. Every. Time.
Running Time: 134 minutes (x 3)
My Total Minutes: 439,746