SilentDawn’s review published on Letterboxd:
The Force Awakens falters in many of the ways that the Disney trilogy has struggled with. It failed to create a coherent first order/republic/resistance dynamic, and therefore a distinct visual style. It doesn't make much sense as to how the republic or the first order operates, it lingers in good/evil archetypes and yet it would most definitely benefit from a complexity of a universe post-fallen empire. As much as it is a reboot in structure and plot, JJ's form is perfect for indulging and wrestling with the nostalgia of Star Wars as a cultural object and a brand. Many of the dominoes that would've aided Rian Johnson's success just weren't set-up (so it's a miracle his turned out as well as it did), and it's clear that the mystery-box tendencies (snoke, luke, the final shot), as well as they work in context of this installment, fall apart when compared to Johnson's vision, and rightfully so.
Still, as it stands, these characters are so well-drawn, and the fun is immeasurable. Comparing to Episode 9, it's almost quaint. Simplicity is key. This one has actual sequences and pacing! And it doesn't look like ass! And a tightness to the character tension that is really engrossing, allowing equal screen-time for humor, dramatics, and propulsive world-building. It has some of my favorite Han Solo lines in it ("Yes I do! Every time!" is a classic). It's lived in and aware of itself, so the more copy-paste mechanics fit as an introductory chapter. It feels like Star Wars, like, really Star Wars, and not the Target commercial that The Rise of Skywalker collapsed into. I wish for that 2015/2017 feeling again, where I had the audacity to believe that Disney knew what they were doing, but in returning to this, it's clear that their uneasiness was embedded from the beginning. And yet, it's still magic.