Well that was certainly a Star War!
I'm a mixed bag of feelings about it. I'm not disappointed or let down, but I certainly did just see a bunch of bull**** as well.
What I liked:
+ the sense of finality/duality/full circle-ness. It really did feel like the culmination of nine movies coming together
+ the "in between" moments where characters come to life (like Poe and Finn gaming with Chewie) this movie was full of them, and that reminds me of the OT. TLJ was completely devoid of these moments for the most part
+ Rey's journey. I like Rey, I've never had a problem with her, or her power-- and now her power level makes sense. I missed a little of the optimism and sweetness she had in TFA and TLJ, but I think that was intentional.
+ Han's cameo. That wasn't spoiled for me, and it was sweet. I'll give JJ credit for not putting him in the ghost shot at the end, cause you know he wanted to.
+ Kylo Ren is still to me how Anakin should have been portrayed in the PT. His redemption was inevitable, we knew that from the start-- even if Rian Johnson tried to steer us away from it. Much like Vader, you couldn't let the character live when they've caused so much destruction and Death.
+ Loved how the band was together for most of the movie. TLJ suffered from keeping them apart the whole time. Having them together makes them better characters.
+ Finn made so much more sense in this movie than in TLJ. I always thought he was a fun character, giving him confidence, an inkling of the Force-- all good. I love his face when he sat in the gunner's chair-- he's ended up in that position clueless a few times before, seeing him sit down and pull on the gloves Han-style was great. Similarly, Poe was back on track after seeming like a different character in TLJ.
+ I am shocked I am saying this, but I like the new little droid. If BB-8 is a faithful golden retriever, D-0 is like a cat. He rolls up to Rey, she reaches out to pet him, and he pulls back. "No thank you."
+ 3P0-- my least favorite character of the OT, pretty much pointless and tacked on to the PT, and shrill and annoying in the ST, I finally felt like he was made good use of in this movie and was actually kind of fun.
What was just okay:
+ The scavenger hunt plot. Let's be honest, Star Wars plots are always pretty flimsy and hung on the framework of a chase. So it wasn't a shock, but it was also kind of low stakes for the finale movie.
+ Leia's inclusion. It was really clever to write around what lines they had for her to say, and she was integrated pretty seamlessly (albeit a bit stiff, but so was DeNiro in The Irishman's de-aging scenes and he's still living), but it never quite felt like she was actually to talking TO the people she was sharing the screen with. I mean, she wasn't, and they did the best they could, but it never felt 100% on for me. Though I did love that quick flashback image of OT era Luke and Leia training together. I want THAT movie.
+ Lando. Sorry-- he was too old, stiff and mumbly for me to really love. I think Donald Glover stole the part.
+ All the new characters-- just interesting enough to like, but not likeable enough to really get into. And it seemed like there was one too many of them I was supposed to care about. ANd not to be a dick, I know JJ puts Greg Gruenberg in all his movies, but how huge is he going to get and we're supposed to buy he can fit in an X-Wing cockpit... prob why he crashed... SON OF PORKINS.
+ New Force powers... I mean... I get why fanbabies won't like it. I don't mind too much. I've always said that people use what Luke could do as a benchmark, and the ST has set Rey up to more powerful from the start. New powers are fine, rediscovery of old powers is fine too. To be fair, every SW movie has added a power to what Jedi can do. It just seemed like in this movie they were all invented to help the plot in some way. Like they wrote themselves into a corner, and used a new power to get out of it.
What I didn't care for:
+ The pace. When my 14 year old, who lives on video games and youtube clips, leans over to me and says "Jeez, this thing is moving way too fast." You know there's a problem. Things moved so quickly in the first half that the dramatic moments never landed. Not 3 minutes in and we have Kylo facing a returned from the dead Palpatine-- that should have WEIGHT and importance-- and instead, it felt like a "previously on" edit. In fact, I'd say the first forty-five minutes of this moves was basically a "previously on" edit of the Episode 8 JJ Abrams would have made. Easily the first third of the movie is just putting the plot where he wanted it to be after TFA. Whether it was ego, fan service, or having a story too big for one movie, it was forced and it showed.
+ Speaking of course corrections-- look, pretty much every SW film other than ANH retcons what came before it... and I get why people didn't care for TLJ, but pretty much all of its bold choices were reversed-- Rey's lineage DOES matter, Luke DID make a mistake, Leia DID train to be a Jedi, Rey DIDN'T shut the door on Kylo, Rose DOESN'T love Finn, Kylo IS redeemable. Even little things like Ren's fixed helmet and the Holdo maneuver quip were basically bitchy little pokes at TLJ. Again-- either fan service or ego-- either way, they could have done better. The ONE thing people would have wanted retconned more than anything, was to see more Luke.
+ Knights of Ren and Snoke. So Snoke was set up as a leader and dark side user. The Knights of Ren were supposedly Kylo and the other former Jedi students he left Luke with. Apparently NO ONE in the galaxy had the same questions we did about Snoke and where he came from? Now Palpatine just says "I made Snoke" and we see Snoke clones in a jar. WTF does that even mean? And the Knights of Ren are what exactly? Clearly not force users... what sort of organization are they? What does Kylo have going on with them? How is he the master of them? It's like JJ was told, "you can't have the Emperor or the Sith. Luke beat them" and he said "Okay-- what if I just have them but call them something else?" That got the go ahead, but then this movie comes around and they decide-- "Ah to hell with it. Just do what you wanted to do." And now it's up to some book I'll never read to figure out. They should have just said the Crimson Guard in TLJ were the Knights of Ren. I would have bought that at least.
+ The lightsaber battles in those movie were lame. I recall both JJ and Rian said they preferred the methodical, dramatically charged lightsaber fights of the OT, and both of them seemed to make good on that. I guess JJ forgot-- because this movie had lightsaber action constantly and it was all jumpy/flippy and pointless save for when Rey stabs Kylo. So basically-- kind of like the PT.
+ Apparently Palpatine only ever has two plans-- get ultimate power, blow planets up. And If he just had a fleet of warships I might get that-- but legions of troops and officers? Where did all those jerks come from and why were the just standing around?
+ So Rose and Finn's romance was dropped? Sort of? But Finn loves Rey now? Or maybe he loves the other black ex-stormtrooper? This was all very weird and I didn't understand the point.
+ Maybe I am a nerd on this one-- but I felt like the art direction was really lacking. TLJ had such a striking and unified look to it, TROS seemed all over the place. I think more planets were visited in this one than any other film (other than maybe ROTS) and none of them really stuck out as unique.
+ I agree with Choc's EU statement. A lot of the elements of this movie-- Emperor resurrected, Sith daggers, special gadgets, everybody's badass backstory, etc. It all felt very much like an EU novel-- bogged down in arcane little details that take away from telling a big mythic story.
+ My last point, and it's pretty huge... from day one, I said the only thing the ST shouldn't do is invalidate Luke's victory. The Sith were defeated. I was okay with the dark side returning-- it does that. But to specifically bring Palpatine back basically says everything Luke did ultimately did not matter. I had hope-- the screenwriter even said they didn't want to invalidate what Luke did. I knew Palpatine was going to be in this, but I guess I thought maybe it was going to be his essence in a holocron, or some sort of fake transmissions to rally people.. anything other than actually being Palpatine
So at the end of the day, I feel the same way about this one as I did about TFA. I think it is fun, and it feels right, and I love the characters-- but ultimately it defies its own logic and comes of as fan-wanking one to many times, and under close scrutiny falls apart. It is at least watchable and fun, unlike the PT, but it still doesn't come close to the OT.
I liked it, but I would never try and debate somebody who doesn't, because their complaints are probably valid.