And I'll try to be spoiler-free.
I'll start by saying that knowing J.J. Abrams I was expecting one thing and hoping for another thing.
I was expecting a ton of fan service call-backs and references to the original films. We got plenty of that.
I was hoping he would put enough effort into the new characters that I would care about them for the ensuing movies instead of making them all about the older versions of the old characters. Wow, did he knock that one out of the park! Before the first old character shows up, I had 4 new heroes (Finn, Poe, Rey, and of course BB-8) who I immediately loved, and a villain who can certainly strike fear (Kylo Ren.) That villain becomes more nuanced throughout the movie (check out this twitter feed for some laughs--after you've seen the movie) and there's an Emperor surrogate in Supreme Leader Snoke who so far is only shown in hologram (no big deal, it took us three movies to see Emperor Palpatine in real life.)
The action, acting, cinematography...all top notch. And my 11 year old niece can attest to the fact that you don't need to have seen the original movies to enjoy what's going on (she knows about the characters, just hasn't seen all of the originals.)
The near-consensus seems to be that this is the third best STAR WARS movie. Better (obviously) than the prequels, better than RETURN OF THE JEDI, but not quite at the level of the original STAR WARS or THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
I beg to differ. THE FORCE AWAKENS
Running Time: 135 minutes (x2)
My Total Minutes: 413,253