As a really big Star Wars fan I can totally get what people are saying about it being like a next-gen version of A New Hope. There's so much throwback to the old films that it really just feels like a trip down memory lane while getting to see new faces too. That being said, I saw the film with a group of friends and one of them had never seen a Star Wars movie before, so we gave him a quick rundown. Even though he knew who the old characters were it was clear that he didn't have that moment of "Oh shit" when they appeared. Obviously it's expected that someone who doesn't know the old characters wouldn't have that connection but he said that he felt a lot of the big moments in the film are just like those; ie the Falcon, Han and Chewy, Leia and even Luke. This even applies with the Death Star and the new massive planet that blows up like 5 planets at a time. If you can't appreciate the original Death Star by not having seen it then the new one doesn't mean much, especially because it was delivered in such a quick and direct way. Then there's even the trench run to blow it up. This movie is filled with cliches, and while as a Star Wars fan I'm totally down and excited to see it, I can get why new fans are kind of like "Oh, that's cool, I guess".
I think mostly it comes down to Jar Jar Abram's directing. He's been known to be a big Star Wars fan so I'm not surprised that a lot of the film seems to be fan service. This isn't bad either, especially because the film is just so Pineappling good to look at. I saw it in Imax 3D and was in awe of sand blowing across the screen. It's really incredible. I'm probably going to see it in theaters at least one more time. Just the experience of seeing a Star Wars movie while it's still in theaters was new to me because when episode 3 came out I was like 9 years old.
As for storyline, I think we can all agree that we want to know more. I just want more of Finn and Rey and Kylo Ren and Supreme Baldo. I want to know more about whats happening in the Star Wars universe during this time, and I don't think it was an accident or unintentionally that a lot of people feel this way. I think they're giving us just enough to draw us in and want to stick around. Plus, we're getting a ton of content. Apparently the plan is to get a new direct story sequel every two years with another Star Wars independent movie in between. So that means episode VIII in 2017 and episode IX in 2019. In 2016 there's a movie about a Rebel fighter squadron, 2018 is a spin off about Han Solo, and 2020 is a spin off on Boba Fett. Real cool if it happens.
Anyways, as for the new actors, I really like this cast. I think the characters of Finn, Rey, Poe and Kylo Ren are brilliantly portrayed. I think they're believable, I love all the little nuances, although I do acknowledge some pacing problems. I think they just wanted to cram a ton of stuff in the movie.
I like how Finn is this innocent guy who doesn't want a part in anything and wants to run but in the end decides he's going to fight even if he's not strong enough. As Sarge pointed out the whole afraid one second then killing storm troopers the next is a little fast, but it doesn't ruin the character for me. I think it's mostly that there weren't moments of internal struggle with just him on screen freaking out over it to counter balance those moments from earlier in the film, but I think it's evident that there is some form of character progression and growth with him. I also think he had the funniest moments in the entire film, his delivery and sense of humor he could give off was excellent.
Rey has so many Luke like qualities. Just living a quiet boring life when all of a sudden she's thrown into this new adventure and does miraculous things. It gives off a real "it's your destiny to be a jedi" vibe. The only problem is that whole going from not being able to do anything force related to picking up a lightsaber and kicking a Sith lord's ass thing, but again, a pacing problem more than anything else. I don't think she'll be the most powerful jedi we've ever seen or anything, but she's gonna do some cool stuff.
I really like Poe's character. A smug pilot who knows hes good and isn't scared but isn't an asshole. He just made me smile a lot during the film, he's just a lovable dude. Again I think maybe the pacing and cliche of the movie ruined his return because it was kind of predictable, but it still gave me some chills because of the rebels showing up to attack the empire. Can't wait to see more of him doing cool piloting stuff too.
I actually really like Kylo Ren as a character. I like a villain with internal struggles, I like the back and forth, I like the frustration, I like the tantrums he throws like a little child. I like him as a villain. Super duper stoked to see more of him. I can sense he'll probably turn good near the end and do something to help the light side because of the whole "he has too much of Anakin in him" thing.
The summary of my feelings about this movie just "I want more".
(Also rip expanded universe)