Episode VII of the Star Wars franchise is something few can have missed the hype & merchandising for, at least here in the US. That aside, the movie gets a solid thumbs up from me. My one line summary would be that this is episode IV for a new generation of fans.
Spoilers after the jump though, so if you’re still trying to be surprised, don’t click through.
Rey & Finn are both great, but the story has many connections back to the early episodes. Everything from hiding the secret information in a droid, to not wanting to be part of the resistance. There’s even an homage to the cantina scene, though it ends very differently to the original.
Kylo Ren I’m not so sure about. He certainly doesn’t have the gravitas of his late grandfather, Darth Vader. The scene with Han Solo on the bridge (yes, another father/son over a massive hole to oblivion scene), while not at all unexpected, did touch a nerve now that I probably wouldn’t have noticed before having kids of my own. (The same happened watching the Luke/Vader fight scene from episode VI recently.) Despite some of his earlier comments, Han clearly still loves his wayward son, and maybe even believed Leia when she said he could still be rescued.
The ending with Rey finding Luke & returning his light saber is very clearly the cliff hangar for episode VIII. I suspect the next one might have more of Hamill than we saw in this one (it would be hard to see less of him & still have him on the cast!).
On the droid front, BB-8 is another winner, following in R2-D2’s “footsteps.” R2 makes an appearance again, along with his trusty side kick C3PO. And on the vehicles, the Millenium Falcon, though clearly a little more worn, plays a key rôle too, despite Rey’s initial comments about it (we can let off because she didn’t realize it was the Falcon at the time). There are updated X-Wing and Tie fighters too, and Ren’s sleek command shuttle.