The more I let it percolate and the more I think about it, the more TLJ ends up in a sort of Prequel-ish area for me, in terms of my opinion about it:
I get what they were going for, there were interesting story points that are good when you boil them down to their base elements, and it had some great bits… but they just dropped the ball on the execution.
And it sucks because I came out of TFA super hyped for more story, and I shrugged off all the “rehash” bits at the time because, eh, it was one movie, it got wrapped up quick enough, the characters were great, and we had a great jumping-off point for more about the characters, and that’s what I was interested in.
But I walked out of TLJ with the joy completely sucked out of me, and not in a “second movie, Empire Strikes Back-dark” kinda way, just a “wait… did I not like that movie?” way. I don’t really need to go into why because that’s all been picked apart and debated to pieces ad nauseam, but it just stood in such stark contrast to the excitement I felt after TFA. I watched it three more times in theaters and couldn’t get into it: I read positive articles and reviews and listened to podcasts about it, and they would get my hyped up to a point where I would be thinking “Okay maybe I was wrong, let’s try again” and I’d go in to see it again and it would just suck the wind right out of my sails again.
And I totally get all the positive arguments about it because every time I hear them or talk about them, I get excited about the movie again, and there are people I know and like whose thoughts and opinions about film I really trust and agree with who like it, but at this point, I’ve steeped myself in the story so much that there’s nothing about the story or the characters or the writing that I’m not understanding or not getting and I’m honestly okay with the idea of subverting our expectations about characters and their arcs… I just… don’t like it, I guess. It’s super disappointing for me.
It hurts TFA in my mind, too, because it calls attention to the parts I didn’t like most about that movie and I don’t feel like it was enough of an evolution from TFA to right those wrongs. It just feels like additional footage from TFA stretched over two hours with these massive character-defining moments in the trilogy sprinkled in that don’t have the impact they should because we’re not far enough away from TFA.
I’m not holding out much hope for IX or the end of the trilogy right now. Especially not with J.J. coming back. And I honestly lay a lot of the blame for TLJ on him and the way Lucasfilm has handled the franchise in terms of not having a guiding voice for the trilogy and apparently letting each director do their own thing. J.J. didn’t set up for a sequel well enough, and Rian (who I think is a great director and a great person) was too free to just go nuts with it.
Kudos, I guess, to Lucasfilm for gambling with a movie like TLJ and not just going the super safe route, I guess? But I honestly wish they’d gone a bit safer.