It feels like a Star Wars movie, more or less. Much more than I can say for the prequel films. There’s plenty I disliked about it, but more that I liked, and in terms of repositioning the series and setting it up for a fruitful future? It succeeds wildly.
The characters aren’t explored nearly as much as I’d like, but are for the most part compelling. Kylo Ren was the real star to me, a villain with a fascinating psychology driving him, and unique compared to all previous Star Wars villains. Rey was more thinly sketched than I’d have liked, but Daisy Ridley performed her well, and her story is among the most intriguing. She functions very well as the lead of the movie. Finn starts off very well (the best premise of any of the new characters, for sure), but quickly gets lost in the mix, much to the character’s detriment (I’d have loved to see how a child soldier explored to suddenly being in the side that kills his former peers, but instead he whoops and hollers while killing them with no thought).
The inclusion of characters from the earlier films is alright. Leia and Luke’s roles feel like fairly natural continuations, but Han regressing to the state he was in in the original films (culminating in him experiencing a story decision that should have happened in Return of the Jedi) worked less well for me. The performance was compelling, but it was such an overt retread that it felt awkward. Structurally, the entire film suffered from a similar issue, being such a clear retread of the original Star Wars film. A wise choice to winning back goodwill from the public, but not a choice that led to as compelling of a movie as hopefully the sequels will be.
I give it three lightsabers, and a whomp rat.