I went to an actual theater to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens recently. The act of going out to see a movie is an event in itself for me...I almost never do, preferring to wait on home releases to avoid 1) crowds, 2) cost, and 3) uncomfortable theater surroundings.
Going in, I had mixed expectations. On the one hand, I love Star Wars and anything new is likely to get me excited. On the other hand, I remember feeling the same way when Star Wars: The Phantom Menace came out, and that one was disappointing. Not so much because it was bad, but because it felt like a kid's movie and I was expecting something else. So this time, I tried my best not to go in with preconceptions.
Of course, that doesn't mean I had no idea what the film was going to be like. You can't be active on the Internet and/or be a nerd with similarly nerdy friends without getting some idea what's going on in these big movie releases. I avoided detailed spoiler discussions, but I knew more or less what to expect - something very much like the original movie, Star Wars: A New Hope.
No question, The Force Awakens is exactly that. You can't call it a remake of A New Hope since it's new characters and is set a generation in the future, moving the timeline along. But it sure does follow the same formula, from amazingly gifted youngsters in the desert to major family dysfunction to evil guys in masks to destroying giant space weapons. The idea behind this movie was clearly "give the people what they like," rather than "break new ground."
I don't think The Force Awakens suffers because it's so similar to the older movie, though. Perhaps that's just my nostalgia talking, but I don't mind new takes on an old formula as long as it was a good formula in the first place. And I had no complaints about the actors, production, and writing on this movie. They did a good job making the old formula hold up in a new age, and there's plenty of opportunity for future films to work on breaking some new ground.