I saw the new Star Wars film on Friday. Now that I've had a new days to collect my thoughts and reflect on the film, I'll share my thoughts.
First, let me say that I enjoyed the film. It kept me entertained for the duration, hit the right spots when it came to nostalgia, humour, and asethetics. If this was considered the goal of the film (other than to make planet-sized bucketloads of money), to successfully capture the magic of the original trilogy for fans of episodes 4-6, then Star Wars Episode 7 can be considered a success.
My biggest problem with Episode 7 is that it felt too safe. It is a good Star Wars film, but it didn't move the series forward in any significant way. Although the prequels had their issues, they at least attempted to show the galaxy from a fresh perspective. The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope.
The Force Awakens has issues with explanation. The backstories and the reasons for events were glossed over. How did Poe survive the crash on Jakku? How did the First Order obtain so much power (even Episode 4 discusses how the Empire overcome opposition from the Republic)? Why did Kylo Ren hate his father so much? How did Rey get so powerful with the force and a lightsaber? Answers to questions such as these were written around or flat out ignored. I understand that some people found the politics of the prequel trilogy boring, so I can understand why politics would be toned down. Personally I liked the political aspects of the series, it gave the galaxy more depth, but less emphasis on explaining the backstory in detail would have been fine. The problem is that The Force Awakens takes this to the extreme and we're left with story that feels contrived.
The characters were okay. Rey is basically Luke Skywalker 2.0. They need to develop her more. I liked Finn and BB-8. Kylo Ren also needs development - a conflicted individual provides a good source for interesting material, but a character's motivations need to be explored to make them believable. As it stands, many of the characters feel like fans of original trilogy characters (Kylo of Vader, Rey and Finn of Solo), rather than characters with their own unique contributions to the saga. In a way it makes sense; characters are often written to be relatable to the auidence, and at this point most of the auidence will already be fans of other Star Wars films.
The Force Awakens is lacking in a few places but perhaps such a safe film is necessary to regain faith from fans and bridge the gap to more risky storylines in episodes 8 and 9? We'll see. The method of how they're going to progress the story in episode 8 is problematic. We already have a heroine who has defeated the main villian, so what additional growth is there left for her character that was started in episode 7? Kylo has already made his commitment to the dark side by killing his father - again, where can his character naturally progress to? What can Luke contribute to the story besides rehashing Obi-Wan and Yoda's roles from the original trilogy? Leia did not contribute much to episode 7, which was disappointing. They could have done more with such a (potentially) powerful and iconic character. These concerns may have solutions, but it's hard to see them in light of episode 7.
So yes, I have a few concerns with this new trilogy, but as fan I absolutely did enjoy it. It could have felt more... organic. There's a manufactured quality about it, like someone sat down and carefully selected the elements that make up the movie from a predefined list, rather than constructing a film that was told out of a passion to tell a particular story, as episodes 1-6 do (the story of Darth Vader), even if the implementation was far from perfect. There's an adhoc quality to it too. Unless episodes 8 and 9 and tie the new story in better with the overarching themes and story (the Darth Plagueis = Snoke theory is interesting and might help with this if true), the sequel trilogy is unlikely to feel neccessary to the overall saga.