Further, J. J. Abrams made a brilliant move in bringing back the father/son Greek drama conflict that animated the original trilogy, except reversing who was good and who was bad, that is, making the father good and the son bad. That was brilliant.
And though I just hated Han Solo being killed by his son, I would have hated Han Solo killed by just about anyone else even more, because the son killing the father is also perfect classic Greek tragedy, and Shakespearean too, while we're on it.
J. J. Abrams had already shown in his Star Trek reboot that he knows how to weave in iconic, central characters from the original series. Indeed, Han in The Force Awakens had an even more crucial role than the older Spock in Abrams' 2009 Star Trek, and that's saying a lot. Harrison Ford is a powerful and subtle actor - a rare combination - and he brought that to this swan song in Star Wars, bringing Han's swagger, sense of humor, and soul in fine proportion to the role.
Women played a much bigger and better role than in the original trilogy, especially Rey (well played by Daisy Ridley) and her wielding of the light saber and keen sense of right and wrong, and Leia, who I actually thought was a lot better in The Force Awakens than in the original trilogy. And/or, maybe Carrie Fisher is a much better actress now. The combination of Leia and Rey set up - what, an aunt and niece dynamic? - that compliments the father and son motif, and has the saving grace of both being on the side of light. (I think it likely that Rey is Luke's daughter, almost certainly not Leia's. Leia doesn't hug Rey in the way a mother would hug a daughter, certainly not one she hadn't seen in years. And Rey starting out on that backwater world reprises the way we first found Luke, in the very first Star Wars move. For that same reason, though, I'd say there's an outside chance that Rey is Obi wan Kenobi's progeny.)
By the way, though I've been talking about the original trilogy, let me point out that unlike many dyspeptic critics, I loved the second, prequel trilogy, too, and I recommend anyone starting out on these movies should see all six, in the order in which they were originally released, before seeing The Force Awakens.
Other things: the new robot was great, it was fun to see the old ones again, and I would have liked to hear Luke at least say a word when he meets Rey at the end. Max von Sydow could have been on the screen longer, as an Obi wan Kenobi kind of character - he was on so briefly that I can't even recall his name.
This movie was so good that I wish it was twice as long. I was glad to see Hillary Clinton say "the force be with you" at the end of the Democratic debate on Saturday, because you could say she's Leia and Trump was Snoke or maybe General Hux, or someone in between in age. Right, I'm mixing politics into this, and if you don't like it, too bad, it's definitely something Han Solo would have done, may he rest in peace.
Star Wars, when first movie came out, brought science fiction out of the cult and into the mainstream, as I told AM New York and AP and Roy Green on his radio show. The Force Awakens continues this grand tradition of science fiction as a Shakespearean form of our time, and hey those special effects and aliens in Maz's cantina's were a real treat, too.
See also this thoughtful review by James F. McGrath ... and here's my defense of Star Wars 2: Attack of the Clones, published back in 2002 in Locus Online ...
the force in our reality