My family and I had been invited to a private showing of Star Wars on December 27th. A friend's father who owns a local business rented our town theatre for a showing. We decided to catch it early. Actually, I became far too excited to wait, and feeling like a ten-year-old kid again, talked my wife into seeing it before the 27th.
The movie does a great job of bridging the old and the new. We get to see our old heroes and meet some new ones. I left the theatre feeling like the series is in capable hands, both in terms of new characters and the direction the story is taking. The pacing felt just right, giving us plenty of thrills as well as a little time to breathe between action sequences without the pace bogging down. There is some humor in just the right doses, and zero jokes involving farting aliens.
Most importantly, Abrams' story world felt like Star Wars. The sets, the props, all of it. Jakku felt especially gritty and real. It was also nice to see the actors in outdoor locations, rather than have everything green screened to death. Overall, I would put The Force Awakens in the top three of the series (Behind Empire and A New Hope). I'm looking forward to seeing it again. Just wish we didn't have to wait until 2017 until the next installment.