Are you a fan? Did you re-watch the original trilogy prior to the Force Awakens? If you did, you will have a severe case of de ja vu with this outing and if not, you will certainly be aware of similarities to a New Hope at the very least, unless you're a complete Star Wars newbie. So is this a negative? On first watch no, the film itself lifts key moments from the past and brings them up to date in true JJ Abrams style, offering a visual, emotional and humorous feast of a re-introduction to the Star Wars universe.
Its not until you let the dust settle and discuss the film a little more that you wonder if it did actually take too much from the past. Some of it is backdrop for the introduction of new characters, but there is so much borrowed from the past..
from a Droid with a secret message left on a barren planet, right up to attacking the weak spot of a death star..
.. and many more instances in between, that it could quite easily make for an efficient re-imagining of the past. However, 2 new characters in Rey and Finn are there to forge a new way forward. Their story is told enthusiastically, where they cross paths with new friends, foes and familiar faces along the way. Their performances are fresh, keep you interested and wanting to know more, which bodes well for future episodes.
Turning to the dark side and the new guy wearing the helmet is on a lot more familiar ground, although his story also takes interesting paths, intertwining between old and new in satisfying ways. However, we do stumble across a lack of depth at times, especially with explanations on who are the big bad and indeed why are the opposing rebels so disparate?
Its clear that this film has steered away from the issues that bogged down past prequels and has opted for a crowd pleasing romp through set pieces and nostalgia that has an earthy, natural feel. Old characters are handled well, especially Han and Chewie, where they will genuinely put a smile on your face.
Its a great film, albeit a stepping stone that could suffer under scrutiny, however, a new spark in the Star Wars universe had to come from somewhere and to that end, this film succeeds..