Right off the bat, they get the crawling text perfectly, it even has that slight wobble, which is an almost imperceptible addition that points to the amount of detail that carries through the whole film. I can't say that this fully makes up for the Prequels and the altered versions of the Original Trilogy, but this film has set the film back on the path to the light side.
Many of the shots in the film visually call back to A New Hope, and plenty of the story mirrors the steps taken then. A good call on the creators' part.
What is even better, is early on there's a joke by Poe Dameron in a troublesome situation, that at first seems off-key and a little awkward making it feel out of place, but the magical thing here is- it actually works. And it works very well. The film keeps this effect going through it's entirety. They've balanced the humor and seriousness so neatly that I was rather surprised by it. I mean, there's an extra hilarious scene with two Stormtroopers backing away from a room they hear Kylo Ren raging in, and it definitely feels like a nod to the Tag & Bink Star Wars comics.
Now Abrams as a director tends to try and make every scene stay in motion, with either people or the camera continually in action- normally I am really bothered by this, but he's finally used it to wonderful effect because the scenes where the camera doesn't move are even more impactful because of it. They hold extra tension because we aren't playing catch up as a viewer, we become much more focused on what is happening in the moment. Once again though, many of the scenes echo those from the Original Trilogy, leaning on that for extra weight, and it does the job quite wonderfully. This is shown most spectacularly through Kylo Ren. He outwardly appears to be the new form of the Sith, an indomitable dark lord toppling everything in his path, but inwardly he struggles to find the right way to go- and ends up falling on old habits in taking the easy path to the dark side and trying really hard to hold on to the anger and pain to make him strong. He fears that he might be pulled back to the light side. They've been so reliant on the Original Trilogy and fearful of making a whole new path, but you know, I don't mind it. It feels familiar and wonderful at the same time.
The Force Awakens clings to the oldie-but-goody mentality while creating an overlay of a new story. The film is clearly miming the Original Trilogy, but the foundation for the franchise's redemption is there inside, waiting to be awoken.
To be fair, there are a few things that bothered me, such as the over-the-top action with the aliens shortly after Han and Chewbacca meet up with Rey and Finn, the truly ludicrous size of the Starkiller base, and the super dramatic, overly lengthy pause in the last lightsaber fight where clearly Kylo Ren would've taken action seeing the person obviously accessing the Force. Or the fact Captain Phasma was put in a ton of commercials and has a very small role in the film. Or why are the "rebels" still called rebels, when they essentially destroyed the Empire and are still mostly in control, and the general coincidental paths crossing. BUT! I can overlook most of these things, because the rest of the film has done such an amazing job. The Force is balancing again, the magic is returning to the series, and The Force Awakens is getting things back on track for future Star Wars generations.
In the end the film is extremely entertaining and I will end this part of the review with the quote from Han that perfectly sums up what The Force Awakens is- a return of the Force, "Chewie, we're home."
If you'd like to read more (my complaints, spoilers, and thoughts) click read more below.
*SPOILERS AFTER THE BREAK*
My biggest complaint is with Rey. They made her too damn good at everything. They are hamfistedly pushing the current social ideologies and making her a powerful individual- which isn't bad in itself- what bothers me is the fact that they gave her NO WEAKNESSES. She's better than everyone at everything.
Seriously, she's been stuck on Jakku for a a majority of her life, since she was a small child, and she can perfectly pilot the Millenium Falcon, she is a scrap collector but can somehow perfectly out-engineer Chewbacca, she can apparently translate every other language like C3PO, and somehow beats Kylo Ren in a fight. Somehow, she goes completely untouched through most of the movie aside from being tossed against a tree. Throughout the film they make a huge deal out of how powerful a blast from Chewbacca's Bowcaster is to the point of knocking people through the air, Kylo takes one to the torso and walks it off. Then he kicks Finn's ass, then gets beat down by an untrained Jedi- and remember, he killed all Luke's other padawans that were all presumably lightsaber users already.
My problem with this is the fact that if Luke trained Kylo, what the fucking hell is she supposed to learn from him after she completely kicked Kylo's ass without training? There's no need for training because they made her far too powerful to begin with.
What adversity is she going to overcome? It took Luke a long time to master the Force, training for a short time with both Obi-Wan and Yoda, and somehow she just masters it without any trouble or training at all? Just like every other thing she does, she does it too damn perfectly, and if she's already perfect at everything there's nothing to strive for or grow towards. The hero's path will be very short for her with none of that pesky adversity getting in the way. You can't overcome failures and struggles if you don't have any- they've made Rey into an invincible hero trope.
If you recall how well handled Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise was handled, you'd see that having weaknesses are not only good, but useful in showing character growth. Rey has none here. She's an awesome, self-reliant, strong and independantly capable woman (wonderfully portrayed by Daisy Ridley, who to me is what Kiera Knightly would be if she could act better), but she has no room to grow because she's already at the top.
Of course I know Rey has experience with her battlestaff, but using a spoon is very different than using a knife. I also understand that Kylo had been both previously injured as well as having a kind of mental unraveling, but she was way out of her element and shouldn't have been able to beat him so easily. He held a blaster shot in the air for like 5 minutes at the beginning of the film while doing other things, including using the Force to read into Poe's mind, so I'm sure his mastery of the Force even in his semi-trained state, was in great excess of hers. So he would've acted in that very considerable pause time where she was tapping into the Force during the fight, instead of just looking at her like an idiot.
The only way I can think that this could work in the long run is if in Rey's over-confident demeanor, she loses a fight big-time in the next episode. Like getting horribly trampled and just getting really badly trounced by someone else and having to learn to overcome that loss, I mean it would fit with the traditional Star Wars middle film theme of the bad guys winning.
I also think that she might be Luke's child. It looks like he was standing near a grave at the end, and she 1) has an inherently strong connection to the Force, 2) a natural skill with tech (as Anakin and Luke both had), and 3) began as a lonely person on a desert planet scavenging for parts, 4) Kylo saw her visions of an island and oceans like where she finds Luke. Luke is standing looking at something that looks an awful lot like a tombstone as well... It adds up nicely.
Also, do any Rey's clothes even have shoulders?
Then why the hell was R2D2 in low power mode, and miraculously comes out of it at the end? There's no obvious reason for it. It couldn't have been Luke's saber, because Finn had it nearby for a long time.
On another note, as a lifelong fan, once the Expanded Universe comics were booted from continuity and official canon, it was quite apparent that they'd swipe a ton of ideas from them to rewrite and remake the universe for the films, so Kylo Ren's parentage wasn't a surprise in the least.
As for the absurdity of The First Order's giant Starkiller base, it must have been a financial nightmare. And once it was destroyed, how many potential Finn's were on there? By that I mean, how many possible Stormtroopers questioning their loyalty to the very Nazi-esque regime were killed by the destruction of a planet sized object? And furthermore, when they drained that sun, how many other planets will now be thrown out of whack? Or did the gravity of the Starkiller base throw off other celestial bodies trajectories and so on? I can only imagine we saw billions of lives ending.
Lastly, at the very end, I think Abrams should've cut it with Rey holding out the lightsaber, and not doing the cheesey spin around the island shot.
Sorry to ramble so much. Hopefully everyone still enjoyed the film as much as I did.