Thomas M. Willett’s review published on Letterboxd:
After a second watch, I still like The Force Awakens a lot more. I recognize that it can be seen as a rehash of A New Hope, but I also think it just perfectly established what this franchise means in the modern era. It's about the youth dealing with the mistakes of the past, and I love how this franchise is essentially The Godfather Part III to the original trilogy. It's self-reflexive and critical of the future but still manages to say something within the confines of a fantasy movie. I do love that this is a lofty sequel that pushes characters into unexpected places. It's maybe why I prefer their modern films to the old ones. There are so much subtext and layers to what Star Wars means as a franchise while progressing a story with Rey, who is arguably my favorite of the protagonists in this universe. She has so much to her that is compelling.
I say this as someone who is only now recognizing what turned me off the franchise in my teens. Besides fantasy never being my favorite genre, I found that I have had the opposite relationship with the prequels. I'd see Spaced and Simon Pegg call The Phantom Menace shite. I'd hear the internet complain nonstop about what was wrong with this and that, or how Jar Jar Binks was an abomination. Meanwhile, I'm of the mindset that those who complain that much should just watch better movies. I do subscribe to the idea that it's embarrassing that Star Wars "fans" have more films now where they hate Star Wars. In general, it's off-putting to associate yourself with that level of toxic obsession.
Had I been 15 at the time of this film's release, I think that I might be back in the camp of "I can't stand Star Wars!" because I can't stand the hatred of it all. It's not even rational. Thankfully, I'm more aware of the positive these days and can point to defenders who don't hound Rian Johnson nonstop about why he ruined the franchise. It's the people who drew Kelly Marie Tran off the internet or the Russian bots who controlled the discourse. So much of that is insufferable that it makes it hard for me to like movies sometimes. Just accept that this is cinema, meant to entertain mass audiences. If you don't like it, that's fine. I just wish we lived in a society that could have rational conversations about the pros and cons of, well, anything.
It's fine if you dislike this movie. I can see that the humor may seem a bit broad and that seeing Luke in a compromised position is difficult. However, I think that it does so much confidently that it's easy to like. You're left with substance and more thought-provoking ideas than any blockbuster likely to gross x billion. I like that it isn't stuck in the ways of the past films. It's trying to be its own beast while referencing Wings and Citizen Kane visually. I think it enriches the story well enough, and I wish that I could see it without being reminded of the negative. I like the film and you don't. So what? Life goes on.