I’m going to go out on a limb here: I think The Force Awakens is the best movie in the Star Wars canon. “What about Empire Strikes Back?” you might say. Yes, even better than Empire Strikes Back. Blasphemy, I know.

Like a good little Star Wars fangirl, I rewatched the original trilogy in preparation for the new movie. It had been awhile, and even though I still loved them (a lot), the original trilogy is much more flawed than I had built up in my mind. The original trilogy moves at a lugubrious pace, but The Force Awakens skips along briskly. Even at 135 minutes, it could have gone on for 20 more and I wouldn’t have complained. It also contained jokes that land, which the original trilogy lacked and the prequel trilogy went too juvenile with.

The Force Awakens could have gone wrong in a lot of ways (see: Jar Jar Binks), but what really clinched its position as the number one Star Wars movie for me was the new characters. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega had amazing chemistry as the scavenger Rey and ex-Stormtrooper Finn, and Boyega and Oscar Isaac (playing Resistance X-wing pilot Poe Dameron) had a great rapport that I’m incredibly excited to see more of in the next installment. And, as a side note, it was a breath of fresh air to watch a Star Wars movie that wasn’t primarily about white men. Let’s take a moment to celebrate female X-wing pilots!

I have to admit that I was a little bummed all the way back in 2013 when they announced that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill would be returning to Episode VII. In my personal best case scenario for this movie, Abrams would have let new characters and a new story stand on their own. Leading up to The Force Awakens’ release, Carrie Fisher’s press appearances softened me up a little, and ultimately I think that Abrams did a pretty good job of integrating the old guard with the rookies. In particular, the scenes between Ridley and Ford warmed the cockles of my cynical heart.

This wasn’t a perfect movie by any means. Plot-wise, The Force Awakens relied too much on the family themes from both the original and prequel trilogies. I thought it could have branched out a little. The Big Bads, including Kylo Ren and a motion capture character played by Andy Serkis that I will not spoil, were a little underwhelming; on the other hand Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux proved to be a competent, stone-cold baddie, and I want to know more about him.

If you’re a Star Wars fan and you haven’t seen The Force Awakens yet, you can breathe a sigh of relief, because this really does feel like a Star Wars movie. On the other hand, if you’ve somehow gone this long without seeing a Star Wars movie, there might be some fan service that goes over your head, but you won’t be missing anything crucial to the plot. The Force Awakens has some flaws, but as a lifelong fan, I’m both relieved and excited to see the franchise moving in the right direction again.

Featured image via StarWars.com.