I saw The Force Awakens yesterday. Overall, I enjoyed it. The space battles were awesome, and the lightsaber fights, but the great thing was that this actually felt like the old Star Wars movies. There's a good mix of action, nostalgia, and laughs. And no Jar Jar in sight, I might add.
I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but there might be a few, so read at your own risk.
I loved the new characters, Rey and Finn are awesome and have real chemistry, but overall the movie felt a bit too familiar. It's like they took everything we love about Star Wars and put it in one movie. You can decide for yourself if that's a good thing. Personally, I'd have liked to see something a bit different, plot-wise. "Chewie, we're home" just about sums it up.
The exposition felt a bit clumsy at times, with that "As you know, Bob" flavour, but this might be a writer thing. I polled the non-writers in the group, and they said it didn't bother them. But this is a minor quibble, at least the dialogue isn't cringeworthy, like in the prequels.
I don't know if it's me getting older or the world changing around me, but a lot of movies these days feel quite rushed. Everything happens at a breakneck pace, and it's all about the action. I felt this way about The Force Awakens, too. What happened to character moments? Or maybe that's all we get now, moments. For me, the emotional impact of the story suffers when it's all action all the time. With The Force Awakens, there is a major plot point near the end that should have been developed more to give it the gravitas it deserved. (If you've seen the film, you know the one.) You can also see that a lot of world-building went into the film. The planets are gorgeous, but we don't stay on any long enough to really explore them.
The big bad of the movie is the First Order, the successor of the Galactic Empire, and in place of Emperor Palpatine, we have Supreme Leader Snoke. (Did anyone else notice that he looks a lot like Voldemort?) Standing in for Darth Vader is Kylo Ren, a Knight of Ren. I liked him well enough, even though he's no Vader and his fits of temper seemed a bit laughable at times. The movie actually uses this to its advantage, though, and gets a really funny moment out of it. Ren also had a new kind of lightsaber, with tiny lightsabers jutting out of the hand guard. Am I the only one who wonders how that design came to be selected? Isn't the whole point of a hand guard to, say, guard the hand, not burn off the user's fingers? I dunno, maybe he wears special gloves, or something? Another thing I'd have liked to know more about is their superweapon. How does it actually work?
The Force Awakens isn't perfect, but I think most Star Wars fans will enjoy it. Only time will tell if it can stand up to repeat viewings.
Oh, and BB-8 is the cutest thing ever.
Go see the film. You won't regret it.