The first question must be answered right away: Yes, I very much enjoyed J.J. Abrams's remix of George Lucas's Star Wars and Irvin Kershner's The Empire Strikes Back (with only a dash of Richard Marquand's Return of the Jedi), and so will you, if you have any affection left for the original films.
In fact, I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens more than I thought I would. It has it all. Great bad dialogue, stunning special effects, and good performances from the principals: Daisy Ridley, who reboots Luke Skywalker in the character of Rey, and John Boyega, who plays Finn, a stormtrooper who can no longer stomach the evil of the Dark Side.
Harrison Ford, who returns as a very old but weirdly not tired Han Solo, has great interactions with Boyega. The chemistry between these two gives the movie its heart, its human warmth, its moments of galactic magic. Han Solo knows a thing or two about falling in love with a member of the galaxy's elite, and he happily provides advice to Finn, who is cosmically attracted to Rey, a future Jedi.
The Force Awakens does not offer much of a new story but simply and brilliantly retells much of the old one. It's also very faithful to the images, the technologies, the economy, and the wardrobe of the founding films in the Star Wars series. Indeed, the more you know about the first three films, the more pleasure you will get out of The Force Awakens. And maybe calling it a remix is not a strong enough expression—maybe we should call it a dub, in the Jamaican reggae sense. A remix essentially makes improvements on the past; a dub makes a ghost out of the past. And there are lots of ghostly elements in The Force Awakens. There are the ghosts of the old characters, the theology, the interstellar robot market—and, most brilliantly, the ghosts of the Star Destroyers that crashed on the desert planet. Dub is very close to the root of this work. King Tubby would have loved Abrams's version. Indeed, there is even a little reggae dub near the middle of the movie.
While watching The Force Awakens, I had a Proustian moment. Early in Remembrance of Things Past, the narrator, Marcel, eats a little cake, a madeleine, and it awakens in him a forgotten experience of his youth. My Proustian experience happened when Rey and Finn entered Han Solo's spacecraft, the rusty, dusty, rattly Millennium Falcon. At that moment, I suddenly smelled the stick of chewing gum that came with the Star Wars cards I collected and traded as a boy. I spent a minor fortune on these cards, because buying a few just would not do. You needed to buy lots and lots of them to get your hands on the few rare ones. I was a fiend. I stole coins from the bottom of my mother's purse, and no couch cushion was safe from my desperation. Those cards meant everything to me. I even recalled the rubber bands I used to organize my collection into rare sets and common ones.
Almost 40 years have passed, and yet the exact smell was still in my head. I had no idea it was there. None. Clearly, your past only goes when you go. And what I'm taking to the grave are the images of those cards: Princess Leia captured, space pirate Han Solo, stormtroopers seeking the droid, a horrified Luke finds his family killed. These old images matched the ones on the screen. There was harmony between the two. It was the same galaxy, the same characters, the same music.
J.J. Abrams has succeeded where George Lucas failed: He has remembered what made Star Wars good in the first place.