This is spoiler free but there are some very general things mentioned so if you want a completely empty slate then go see it first.
At some point in the process of taking on the enormous expectations of the movie-going world, J.J. Abrams and company decided that taping into the nostalgia of Star Wars was going to be the single most important element in restoring the faith of fans who felt that George Lucas’ prequels were an enormous misstep. The degree to which Abrams mirrors and calls back to the original trilogy will either have the desired effect or it will leave you with a nagging sense of déjà vu. For me, a lifelong fan who had his seven year old mind blown in 1977, it was mixture of welcome, warm fuzzies and muted disappointment.
That being said, The Force Awakens is fun. A lot of fun. The film’s first act focuses on our new heros Rey (Daisy Ridley ) and Finn (John Boyega ) and they are written and performed with refreshing energy and charm. And when Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Meyhew) show up a little later, the film elevates and hums along nicely with thrilling adventure and genuinely funny moments (Han and Chewy are an absolute hoot). The film’s new villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is a younger, less-in-control version of Darth Vader and although there is nothing particularly fresh in the way he is written, Driver is compelling nonetheless.
Abrams directs and moves the noticeably thin story along with the same gusto he showed in the Star Trek films with some adjustments that seem to acknowledge his desire to stay more true to the mise-en-scène of the original trilogy (so, yes, lens flairs have been sidelined). There are surprises and revelations. There are plenty of things to savor and enjoy. It’s been made with obvious love and care. It’s good. It’s very good. It feels like a Star Wars movie in a way that the prequels never could quite get a handle on. I wanted it to be great but I imagine that my own expectations (just like everyone else) and the unthinkably difficult task of delivering a new Star Wars film that will hit all of the expected marks and carve out something new has rendered that next to impossible. But here we are, in 2015, with a new Star Wars film that mostly succeeds at restoring faith in a series that has spent the last 16 years in a kind of frustrating hibernation. The force has definitely awakened.