I was past the negative feelings this time, so I think I can safely say that I do, in fact, like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
I agree that it is highly derivative of previous Star Wars movies (I will not say which above the fold), but that doesn't really hurt it. This movie has the character development and dialogue that we truly love from the episodes IV-VI. It has action, but not pointless action.
Don't get me wrong: it could be better. The plot doesn't have blatant plot holes, but there are certainly plenty of open questions (which is okay if sequels fill them seamlessly).
Spoiler free, I am not disappointed that I payed to see it in theaters twice. I may even do it again. If you still haven't seen it, go away.
I have heard it said that The Force Awakens is little more than a remake of A New Hope. I can't say that is entirely unfair: the are a lot of similarities. From a character standpoint, however, it is not the same story, which makes it okay with me.
Going back to those open questions:
- Who is this Snoke guy?
- Snoke said it was time to complete Kylo's training. What had he left out before?
- Kylo Ren is the leader of the "Knights of Ren", and there seem to be a half dozen or more others. These are presumably other Jedi trainees who turned to the dark. Presumably Rey will have to deal with all of them. This also means that "Ren", like "Darth", is more of a title than a name.
- Who was the guy played by Max Von Sydow? Why did he have the last bit of the map?
- Why was Rey left alone on Jakku? Whose child is she? Han sometimes acts like he recognizes her, but it's ambiguous.
- Carrie Fisher hasn't aged well: Did you see Mark Hamill?
- Rey is a Mary Sue: She picked up on the "mind trick" pretty fast, but presumably every "Force sensitive" takes to some skills more readily than others. She's a natural at the telepathic stuff, but not particularly adept at other Jedi skills. She survived lightsaber combat by retreating most of the time, against a seriously injured opponent.
- Finn seemed to know how to handle a lightsaber too well: He got one Stormtrooper with a surprise attack, then got his ass handed to him by the next one. He got one lucky graze on Kylo, but most of the time he was getting beaten handily (and toyed with). Still, he does use a proper high guard. My head-canon says that all Stormtroopers got some training in how to handle a Jedi in case Luke did show up: one of them did have a special weapon for engaging someone with a lightsaber, after all.
- Another "Imperial" super-weapon with an Achilles' heel: What can I say? It's the "Imperial" schtick.
- Kylo is the flawed Jedi that Anakin should have been: I can't disagree. Anakin having tantrums like Kylo would have been good for the character (provided he waited until there were no Jedi around to see them). In particular, it would have been nice to see him go on a murderous rampage through the Tusken camp in Attack of the Clones instead of having just a weak description of it afterward.
- When do shields work? Did the Star Destroyer not have shields running when Poe and Kylo were blowing up it's gun turrets?
- When did they start putting tail-gunner seats in TIE fighters?
- If Starkiller Base sucks a star dry every time it fires, where did it get the power for it's first shot that took out the Republic capital? Does the base travel from system to system? It's not at all clear. Also, how far do you have to be from the "gun port" to stand safely on the surface when the weapon fires?
- What is the Millenium Falcon made of? Just what would it have to collide with to sustain serious damage?