I'm a happy clam.
There is nothing quite like watching a grizzled, potbellied Han Solo and (a still-pretty-badly-costumed) Chewbacca enter the Millennium Falcon again after who knows how many years away from it.
I mean, think about it. We don't know how people age in the Star Wars galaxy. It's a huge galaxy. It's gotta be, for so much to happen in it. For so many suns to exist in it. For it to be so hard to find people because there are parts of the galaxy still totally unknown.
Not the point.
The point is, Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens was one of the best movie experiences of my life. Not because the movie was so good, but because the movie was so incredibly self-aware.
Beat by beat, the film pandered to people like me, fans of the original trilogy (don't talk to me about episodes I, II, III - they're dead to me). We saw a Death Star sorta thing, a lounge that was extremely reminiscent of where Luke first found Han Solo all those years ago, a Han Solo with a bad mood, a bad back, and terribly good luck. We got to see a Vader-ish guy, and a reluctant romance. There was overacting (anytime anyone shouted) and the obviously terrible scene shifts that have existed since IV and look like a CEO playing with the fancy Power Point slide transitions. There are X-Wings and those pods with weird solar-panel looking things fighting against one another. There are many, many, many explosions. There is an incredibly adorable droid.
And, possibly my favorite, the Storm Troopers are still terrible shots.
BUT - and this is a BIG BUT, in the I like them and I cannot lie sort of way - the movie isn't pure pander, despite what my partner spent the entire subway ride home trying to convince me.
No. There is a plot. There are characters who aren't white, FINALLY (though let's be honest, the main heroes/villains were still mostly white; Finn is awesome and all, and Poe is great, but the Force isn't with them. It's with Kylo Ren and Rey). And there is the feeling of magical suspense, mixed with the right amount of nostalgia, to save the movie from utter camp and bring it back into the fold of the original trilogy: a good mix of camp, one-liners, character development, and lots of hyper-drive Windows 98 screen-saver scenes.
Plus, there is a villain who doubts himself, who has a face, and who is visibly scared, moved, emotional, human. Or whatever species the humanoid characters are in the world of Star Wars. Kylo Ren as a Vader-wannabe is brilliant, just like Rey being the reluctant Jedi is brilliant. She echoes Luke, but she works from her gut rather than being taught; and Ren has his parents' temper, his dad's inability to decide whether or not he's a scoundrel, and a big chip on his shoulder like his uncle.
I'm not going into more specifics because I don't want to give away real spoilers, but there is one thing below that I just have to say, so #SPOILERALERT!
Luke's hair blowing in the last scene? Classic. If anyone thinks that J. J. Abrams isn't poking loving fun at George Lucas, well, let's just agree to disagree.