After series creator George Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney in October 2012, Disney fast-tracked a new Skywalker trilogy and stand-alone films for release starting in 2015. Disney wished for the first film produced under its banner to be a trilogy film; on the personal recommendation of Steven Spielberg and Lucas himself, J.J. Abrams was hired to direct, with he, Michael Arndt, and original trilogy scribe Lawrence Kasdan writing the script. Originally scheduled for a traditionally Star Wars May release date, the film eventually released in mid-December.
The Force Awakens follows very similar story beats as Episode IV: A New Hope. It follows the story of a group of new characters' -- with the help of some familiar faces -- quest to find the lost Luke Skywalker, who has intentionally secluded himself from the world. At the same time, it chronicles the new and old characters' fight against the First Order, an evil regime that has been created from the rubble of the Empire.
Upon release, the film received overwhelmingly positive reviews. Says the Rotten Tomatoes consensus: "Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy." It currently holds a 93% critic and 87% audience score on the review aggregator.