WARNING: SLIGHT SPOILERS (Nothing major, but you may want to return after you've seen the film.)
As I entered the cinema with my friend, hurrying to get decent seats in a packed theater house, I was stirred up by the excitement and joy that shortly I would be witnessing a new Star Wars movie. As we took two of the worst seats, (which were the only remaining ones) I held onto that excitement...that hope. The hope of Star Wars being reborn and raised for a new generation.
The story and overall plot is a rehash of A New Hope, with certain elements and themes pulled from the original trilogy. All the main story points and characters are present and familiar, yet slightly revised to blend with new characters. The tone felt like a mixture of A New Hope, with the ending incorporating many of the darker themes of Empire Strikes Back. It is continuity at its best. It doesn't feel like a sequel, but rather a return to journeys gone past. We revisit classic characters with the new ones. Force Awakens doesn't need Han Solo, but it benefits the story. Han Solo isn't in this film to say: "Hey look, it's Han Solo!".
If you enjoy Storm Troopers, blasters and spaceships, you will most assuredly enjoy Force Awakens. I was rather disappointed in the use of the lightsaber, however. It was featured most at the end of the film, and though I enjoyed the more primitive survival choreography, the duels were quite short and underwhelming. Even the duel in Empire Strikes Back was lengthier, but given the lower skill sets of both combatants, it made sense to keep it a brief confrontation. I will just hope to see a lengthier and more skillful battle by episode 8.
I love the new characters that Force Awakens brings to the table. Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren are all great additions to the already excellent cast.
Kylo Ren is outstanding as the new villain. Many people have complained that he's just another Darth Vader. I do not find that to be the case. Ren's inspiration comes from Vader and thus the helmet Ren wears throughout the film. Ren wants to be intimidating, powerful and feared. The mask grants him those wishes. Without the mask he is just a man. He doesn't have the Vader like presence by himself, but with the mask and that voice, he is indeed feared.
Poe is the slick cool persona that Han Solo was in his prime. He's referred to as the best pilot around, and you'll buy into that when you see him flying his X-wing into action, or any other aircraft that is. He can after all fly anything.
Finn is the guy stuck between a rock and a hard place. A good guy in a bad situation with few options. You really understand his fear of the First Order. He knows it in a way the others don't. He's been there. He's seen things and he wants no part of it.
Saving the best for last, we have Rey. A Luke Skywalker style character, Rey is living the rougher sides of life. Scavenging parts for food and surviving on her wits, street smarts and emotions. She is the most relatable and likable character. We as the audience are her; we live simple lives, sometimes just trying to makes ends meet. Rey is that character.
If you were around during the release of the original Star Wars, you will get something out of this film for sure. Most likely being the nostalgia and emotion which Force Awakens nails perfectly.
If you grew up with the prequels, you have nothing but improvement to look forward to going into Force Awakens. The script isn't terrible, the acting isn't cringe worthy and the environments are practical sets full of practical costumes that you could touch. The use of CGI is appropriate and well executed.
Finally, if you have not seen any of the Star Wars films before and want to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens with friends or family, you'll still be in very good hands. You will miss a ton of nostalgic references, none the less you'll be along for the ride with all these new characters. You will meet Han Solo, as Rey and Finn do. You'll meet him as the legend he is and the one you've heard about from your dad. Most of all, your introduction to a great galaxy will be one you'll remember for a lifetime.