Folks, I will attempt to tread very lightly with regard to spoilers here. Let me just start by saying if you’re nervous about The Force Awakens, I really don’t think you need to be. Is it perfect? No, but it’s very good.
In the typical way that these films do it, character development is a little rushed, and part of that has to do with making screen time for all the returning characters, while building up the younger cast that’s going to carry this new leg of the story forward. While some of the characterization is unearned, it succeeds in making these into people whose stories you’re invested in.
One of the more surprising elements of Episode VII is Kylo Ren. The assumption is that he’s this story’s Darth Vader, but he’s not there yet, and he’s not supposed to be. As some people speculated, he’s early in his training, and that gives us a different look at the character than I expected. He’s not some unstoppable juggernaut, at least not yet. That makes him interesting.
If the film gives us anything else to pick on, it’s that it may pay a little too much homage to the original trilogy. Star Wars is very much a story about the paths people choose, versus ones for which they are destined, so the idea of mirroring story arcs is a recurring theme, but The Force Awakens dips pretty deep into that well.
With that said, believe me when I tell you those critiques don’t add up to a disappointing movie, not at all. The great thing about The Force Awakens is that it’s clear Abrams knows what made this franchise a pop culture icon, and he sticks to it. The movie may be a little too familiar in spots, but it’s never dull, and it carries some very genuine emotional weight.