As of this moment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is currently receiving a 97% “fresh” score on Rotten Tomatoes – with an overall impression that J.J. Abrams delivered on his promise to reenergize a franchise that seemed to lose steam after George Lucas introduced the world to his prequel trilogy.

Below, you will find some of the most positive and negative things said about the new film (without spoilers).

The Good

The Force Awakens re-awoke my love of the first movie and turned my inner fanboy into my outer fanboy. There are very few films which leave me facially exhausted after grinning for 135 minutes, but this is one. And when Han Solo and Chewie come on, I had a feeling in the cinema I haven’t had since I was 16: not knowing whether to burst into tears or into applause.

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– Peter Bradshaw/The Guardian

Here’s why The Force Awakens works. The actors all get a little piece of the action. Sounds like a no-brainer, but so many effects-driven spectacles really don’t care about the faces on screen.

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– Michael Phillips/Chicago Tribune

Without giving too much away, I will say The Force Awakens actually feels like Star Wars again, more so than any film since 1983. From the bickering back and forth of the characters — John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have a wonderful dynamic, ping ponging off one another in ways that feel both warmly familiar and surprising — to the measured use of familiar faces like Chewbacca, C-3PO, and yes, Han Solo and Princess Leia, The Force Awakens understands how audiences originally connected with Lucas’ films. If the prequels felt like a grab bag of ham-fisted shout-outs with shoehorned origin stories, Abrams’ film simply sets up shop in the middle of a long, ongoing narrative and tells its little piece. Despite the large scale, the approach feels small, almost humble — and it’s precisely how the original Star Wars worked when it opened in 1977.

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– Bryan Bishop/The Verge

A return to the levity of the original trilogy. Ford is as good with zingers as he is with blasters.

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– James Verniere/Boston Herald

An exhilarating ride, filled with archetypal characters with plausible psychologies, melodramatic confrontations fueled by soaring emotions, and performances that can be described as good, period, rather than “good, for ‘Star Wars.'”

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– Matt Zoller Seitz/RogerEbert.com

First things first: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is awesome. If space operas appeal to you in any way, if Star Wars ever meant a thing to you, watching The Force Awakens will bring a messy amount of pleasure into your life. Of course, low expectations help. But the catastrophe of episodes I through III may now be cheerfully forgotten, a temporary interregnum, a bad patch, like the Evil Empire itself. The triumph of the new film proves that the magic of the original films can be reproduced, if not exactly recaptured.

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– Stephen Marche/Esquire

The Decent

It’s a solid space opera spectacle with enough nostalgia to overpower even the most hard-hearted child of the ’70s and ’80s but it relies a little too much on recycling old plot elements.

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– James Berardinelli/ReelViews

That’s what one of the things Abrams is best at: Characterization. Although every shot in The Force Awakens includes some kind of special effect (some computer-generated, many done the old-school way, with physical models and makeup), what makes the movie sing are the people. Like Lucas did with the 1977 original, the film thrusts you right into the story with little set-up, forcing you to fill in the details as the action thunders along.

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– Rene Rodriguz/Miami Herald

The Bad

Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan’s screenplay feels like a “greatest hits” reel of the first three movies, with the thinnest of possible stories on which to hang chases and escapes along with nostalgic callbacks.

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– Scott Mendelsohn/Forbes

Perhaps another director will pick up the elements that Abrams left scattered about, imbue them with some… any kind of subtext, to give us some real poetry.

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– Rubin Safaya/Cinemalogue.com

[Abrams] has made an adoring copy of Star Wars, seeking to correct its perceived flaws, without understanding that nothing about that movie’s context or meaning or enormous cultural impact can be duplicated.

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– Andrew O’Hehir/Salon.com

Words by Alec Banks
Features Editor

Alec Banks is a Los Angeles-based long-form writer with over a decade of experience covering fashion, music, sports, and culture.

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