This post isn't about The Force Awakens, but rather the subgenre to which it belongs: the space opera.
The genre can be separated from "hard sci-fi" which has a much stronger focus on plausible technology and what the future might be like. These stories often center on Earth and/or the known universe. The characters in hard sci-fi are unlikely to be attempting to save the galaxy or to be larger than life.
For those more familiar with fantasy, think of the difference between the two as epic fantasy vs. urban fantasy for a good comparison. Personally, I prefer epic fantasy and space operas.
Which do you prefer? Have you seen Star Wars yet (no spoilers please)?
Merry Christmas! I'll see you next Tuesday with a book review.