I'm just going to start this by saying that I enjoyed The Force Awakens, even though I am willing to admit that it was essentially a rehash of every beat of the Original Trilogy. I even stand by statement saying that it had to be, to cleanse our palette of the Prequel Trilogy. I'm not trying to start a war here, but I do think Disney had to separate itself from the Prequels and to some degree the Holy Trinity so they can do their own thing.
And as a fan of the Expanded Universe, and a major critic of George Lucas, I think they needed to.
Now that this is out of the way, this is the first truly NEW Star Wars story from Disney and oooh boy is it DARK! I won't go into much detail, this being a Spoiler-free review, but it's by far one of the more grown up Star Wars movies I've ever seen. To me, the Star Wars universe was always rated R or PG-13 at best, given some of the subject matter. Let's not forget, there's drugs and slavery in this universe, and the word War is in the title!
My personal opinion is that this is a war/spy thriller that happens to take place in the Star Wars universe. It's not as much space opera as the Originals. The Force does make its presence known at some points in the film, but for a movie that involves sentient robots and blasters, it's fairly grounded in reality.
The nods to the originals are also fairly present, but it's more to show that it takes place in the same timeline rather than for fan service. The costumes, props and even 70's porn 'staches some characters really work to make you feel like this was made just before A New Hope. On that same note, this is the most real Star Wars film I've ever watched. There are some points where I couldn't tell if something was CG or not. To be fear, there were a few painfully obvious CG moments as well.
All in all, I'd suggest watching this movie, but chances are, if you're reading this, you already have. Please feel free to comment and share this review. If you really enjoyed it, I'm looking to doing a more involved post about the movie, full of spoilers and nitpicks. Probably after my second or third screening.
May the Force be with you.
- Alex "The Bothan who Lived"