There are times when Abrams leans too heavily on the in-jokes and those nostalgic inversions -- the reintroductions of the original trilogy characters are especially awkward. But when the film focuses on its new characters, as it does more confidently in its latter half the more it becomes its own thing.
With this new episode coming out, the stakes are high. I'm not just talking about the franchise here. When the first three episodes came out, there wasn't as much at stake. It was backstory. My childhood characters were safe back in the 70s and I could line up with the rest of the world and criticize the prequels as not being real. Not part of the "real" movies.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh Star Wars installment (though "Episode VII" has been curiously absent from the marketing), the first to be released by the franchise's new minders at Disney, and the first to follow on from the events of the beloved original trilogy that concluded with 1983's Return of the Jedi.