I apologize in advance for rambling, I drove from San Antonio to Dallas today, and then saw the Star Wars movie, and I'm super tired right now. @_@
I can tell you that George Lucas is going to HATE this movie, which is an endorsement in my book.
I actually think that may be part of the reason I disliked the movie.
Yep. I guess I'm the first one here to say I didn't like it. I don't hate it (I enjoyed parts of it), but I didn't love it, and wouldn't rank it above Return of the Jedi.
So let's start with the good. Rey is far and away my favorite character. She's incredible. Finn is also really awesome. Poe is under-used, but great. BB-8's no R2 in my book, but...not bad. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher deliver compelling performances as Han and Leia. It was also nice to see C-3PO being his usual self.
But some characters I didn't really like. General Hux is underwhelming. He lacks the wizened look or commanding presence that other commanders did. Domnhall Gleeson is not a bad actor, but he's no Peter Cushing in this movie. Although an argument could be made that he's intentionally this way, that means Snoke is a stupid puppeteer, not near as smart as Palpatine. And speaking of that, what the crap kind of name is Snoke? "Supreme leader Snoke says..." commands about as much fear as "Supreme leader Lollipop says...". Which is none. It conveys laughter. And let's talk about the elephant in the room, Kylo Ren. I don't like this guy at all. Not because of his actions...but because he seems like whiny brat Anakin. His temper tantrums are believable...but we really didn't need to see that. I don't have much else to say about him because there's really not that much more to his character at this point.
Now let's discuss the other elephant in the room: The beats of A New Hope. Well, I can say that I disagree with those who claim this is a beat-for-beat reboot of A New Hope. Because this movie lacks the things that made A New Hope stand out as good. I'll cover these more later, but let's address the superweapon. You upgraded from moon-sized...to actual planet? I'm sorry, I thought we did away with the "Silly" EU stories like the Sun Crusher (Which can destroy stars). I guess the door is back open for stupid superweapons, because this movie sure didn't bother to close it. Additionally, the story doesn't really match A New Hope's beats because the "Interior Death Star" and "Attack on the Death Star" portions happen simultaneously in this. A New Hope wisely spread them out so you weren't rapidly focusing your attention back and forth. Also, A New Hope actually ends. This movie is a blatant cliffhanger. I don't fault the movie for this, but it's disingenuous to say this is a reboot of A New Hope when it gets the ending wrong.
Next, pacing. Or "What even is a second act." The first part of this movie had a decent flow to it. Then the flow jumps out the window in favor of...what we got. What was the deal with the freighter? That didn't feel Star Wars at all. It felt more like Guardians of the Galaxy. And the portion with Maz Kanata just drags on, and on, and on. They spent so much time dill-dallying that the plot from act 2 bled into the final battle. Speaking of which, the worst offender, by far, is the end. The fighter sequences are boring. I found myself emptily shrugging as I struggled to relate to what was going on. That was the least interesting fighter battle in Star Wars history. Yes. The Prequels had better fighter sequences. The mix of interior adventure and space combat was confusing. It's almost like a movie made this mistake befor- WAIT A MINUTE. THEY DID. The finale to The Phantom Menace also suffered from action fatigue, as you followed a Gungan battle, a space battle, an palace fight to the Viceroy, and the battle with Darth Maul. The Phantom Menace failed by having too much at once. This movie failed by adding too much important stuff to both. It was like "Oh, we're still doing a space battle? I thought we were having drama on the totally-not-the-Death-Star?"
A minor thing to note here was the fan service. The callbacks were at best excessive, and at worst, distracting. We get it, J.J.. You like the original trilogy. You don't need to remind us that those movies existed at every turn. Let this movie be it's own thing! I felt that the callbacks were not needed, and bogged down the film. Some of the more plot-important ones I didn't mind for their callback, but because they aren't explained. Maz said how she got Luke's lightsaber is a "Story for another time." NO! The time for that story is NOW, dang it!
Of course, the other minor issues I had were more technical. The CGI stuck out like a sore thumb. It was painfully obvious. Practical effects were good, but the CGI they used was not. Also, hyperspace felt like it was literally copy/pasted from the Star Trek reboot. I get it, they're similar, but come on guys. I also found the overall "feel" of everything to be very un-Star Wars. In the original trilogy, the sets and models had a well-worn, matte feel to them. Like they could actually exist. This movie had shiny things everywhere. Even if they were dirty and used, they still had that glossy, Pacific Rim-style look. Nothing about this is timeless, this is very easily identifiable as a 2010's movie with it's shiny, Apple-esque "gritty" aesthetic. Rather than just copy the style used by the original trilogy, a Hollywood coat of paint was applied.
And perhaps that's the best way to summarize how I feel. The Force Awakens feels like someone took the look of the Original Trilogy, dumped a bucket of Hollywood 2010's paint on it, added some genuinely interesting characters, stole elements of the plot from the originals and stripped their pacing, and called it Star Wars. I don't agree with them. This movie didn't /feel/ like Star Wars. It felt like a Hollywood imitation. Maybe Lucas's independence from Hollywood helped the original trilogy. Maybe it hurt the prequels. But either way...this does not feel like what I wanted. And that makes me sad.