My first impressions on watching The Force Awakens, was that it was incredibly derivative. It had desert worlds and ice worlds, planet destroying weapons, a canteena scene and a newly arisen resistance fighting against an intergalactic empire. It felt like a re-hash.
Actually, my first thoughts were where did the First Order come from, and what happened to the New Republic? It seemed to have wiped out the entire point of the middle trilogy, and stuck in a new Big Bad with no explanation of where they came from.
Watching it again now, as part of my re-watch of all three trilogies, I actually enjoyed it a bit more. As a standalone film, it works quite well, and has some nice scenes and pretty awesome visuals at times. It still doesn’t explain the First Order, and it still doesn’t seem original, but it’s enjoyable to watch.
Fin was probably my least favourite character, mostly because his lack of heroism felt out of place, much like Rey’s wanting to go back home all the time. At least they fixed Luke’s need to be a farmer right at the start of a New Hope.
Kylo Ren felt like a wannabe Vader – which is how I think he was meant to come across. His murdering of Han wasn’t unexpected the first time (merely for the meta reason of I couldn’t see Harrison Ford wanting to do another three Star Wars films).
The chemistry between the characters is much better than in the prequel trilogy, matching some of the original trilogy for quality. The action scenes are fun to watch, though a bit over the top at times, especially pretty much anything involving Poe Dameron. At least with Rey, I can explain away her being naturally good at everything because she’s strong with the Force, much like Anakin and Luke were.
However, I’m still utterly confused by the actual planet destroying energy beam. It was mentioned that it was faster than light (but was considerably slower just before hitting the targets), but how did light from it reach other planets unless they were all in the same system? This really confused me on first watch, since I couldn’t figure out whether their science was several orders of magnitude worse than normal, or whether everything was in the same system. It seems to be the former.