If you look into it the lore of TFA isn’t all that confusing, there’s the New Republic which is dealing with Imperial Renamnt terrorists, the First Order, who even have their own ripoffs of Palpatine and Vader (one might ponder if their appearance is intentionally similar, to get more people remembering the OT). Leia wants to fight the First Order while the New Republic would prefer to let them be.
The problem is all in the presentation. In the thrill of the action, you don’t think like above. But they could have easily fixed this. Go to the Republic’s capital and listen in on a Senate meeting (like TPM). And properly build up Starkiller (like they did in Ep4 and 6 with the title crawls) instead of just showing up halfway through the movie and taking all the spotlight.
Disclaimer: I’m almost playing devil’s advocate here simply to spark discussion, despite the fact that i thoroughly believe everything I’m saying here. Still, I enjoy both TFA (in particular the first half hour) and especially TLJ quite a bit.
The First Order functions like the Empire did in terms of plot though. They’re the limitless-resources-big-bad guys, and the Resistance is just the Rebellion. This reset in the status quo is the biggest turn off to me in terms of the ST. It’s mostly TFA’s fault, though TLJ is also to blame since it could’ve easily fixed most of these issues, but it instead only amplified them…
If TFA had been about finding Luke from beginning to end, the rehash aspects would be much less prominent. Though like you said SKB takes the spotlight halfway through and essentially functions exactly like SW’s Death Star, making TFA go by the very same story beats SW goes by. Worth mentioning that by that point TFA was derivative enough already (Rey and BB-8 - Luke & the droids, going to the cantina, etc.) though to me, when SKB becomes the major point of the film is where it started getting close to ridiculous.
TLJ is guilty of ripping off OT stuff as well. Compare the way RotJ’s throne room scene is referenced in RotS and TLJ. RotS creates parallels by using similar visuals and angles to strengthen said parallels, and to contrast the decision Anakin takes to the one that Luke takes. It rhymes, and it’s a very nice and intelligent moment in the movie, IMHO. TLJ on the other hand, reutilizes lines of dialogue and the entire sequence of events (when Rey looked out the window I got so upset because it was the very same scene as ROTJ!!) with an outcome so similar that I was stunned at how not-creative the whole scene was, despite the awesome fight scene at the end…
To me, the ST only started its own path the moment the fourth act of TLJ begun. And with that I mean salt planet. The rest was, like DrDre put it, a modern retelling of the OT to capture our nostalgic hearts. TLJ, obviously, with a couple more twists than TFA, but I’m sure it can still be easily classified as a soft reboot.