Hal 9000 said:
TFA had the easier job of setting up the story of the ST, and made what I consider a bad call in recreating the plot mechanics of the original film(s) of rebels vs empire. It deliberately chose not to build on the story as it had developed so far but to regress and recreate. I’m not interested in blaming specific people, so I personify the film when doing so because I don’t know if these decisions were mandated from on high or JJ’s own insistence. TFA works pretty good at executing this unfortunate decision and introduces a colorful cast of characters in a fun ride. You’re all right with the lack of a solid ending because you understand it’s part one of three. TFA bears its own flaws well enough, but leeches somewhat on what would follow and cannot stand on its own.
TLJ actually has some kind of a central idea, that idea is just kind of sophomoric. TLJ smells the above about its predecessor and wants to correct it before it’s too late. It does so respectfully, taking the events and story so far seriously even as it changes our view of them. It’s a critique of TFA and a dare for IX to be great.
IX failed that dare altogether. TLJ said, “I dare you to do better” without knowing it would be the TFA crew the message would be sent to. TROS was written on the bus to school and the administrators weren’t willing to give it more time. So, we got a bullshit story of “nuh-uh, Snoke didn’t really die, he was just Palpatine all along.” TROS is that kid who stubbornly insists he is winning a playground game and is the worst at turn-based storytelling games. I don’t have many good things to say about TROS. It doesn’t seem to say much of anything, at least when you exclude things the OT already said. There’s no new light cast on anything and nothing to go home thinking about that ROTJ didn’t do much better. It’s a shame for the entire Star Wars saga to end on such a note. I laughed through my first viewing because otherwise I’d just feel embarrassed and sad. It’s enough to hope for a 10-12 trilogy someday just to have another chance at doing what 7-9 ought to have done. Just down the road enough for the chance that enough turnover would let it be fresh.
I think your take on TROS is partly right, but I don’t think you are seeing it in the right way. The ending for ROTJ was epic. That is truly the huge ending in the saga. Even in Lucas’s original ideas, he had nothing truly planned beyond bringing the OT cast back to hand off the baton to a new generation. That lack of deep planning shows. But it also works for the story. In the OT the rebellion was fighting the fully formed and powerful empire. In the ST they are trying to save what is left of the New Republic from the reminants of the Empire. In some ways this was done to better effect in book form with Timothy Zahn’s trilogy. But in some ways that wasn’t as epic a story from the POV of the Skywalker/Jedi story. The ST proposes that something survived ROTJ and is rebuilding and the heroes must stop this rise of a new Empire before it is too late. That is complicated by an early strike on the fledgling new Jedi order that has sent Luke into hiding (George came up with that one). The promise of a new Jedi order from ROTJ is unfulfilled. So the ST trilogy must save the republic, stop the Empire from winning again, and start the Jedi again.
It does this by finally addressing an element from the PT that the PT Jedi teachings were flawed. Lucas set this up very nicely. To avoid the Dark Side a Jedi isn’t to just avoid the dark side, they are to avoid attachments which can lead to fear, anger, and then hate. So the Jedi in the PT aren’t teaching their Padawans how to avoid the Dark Side pitfalls, they are teaching them to avoid any hint of any path that strays even close. This is why Anakin fell. The ST has Luke come to this realization and be wallowing is dispair on how to proceed. He wants to restore the Jedi Order but he made the same mistakes. The Jedi need to be reborn in a new way. This fits with Lucas’s idea of the ST passing on he baton. Too many fans wanted a new Luke, Han, Leia trilogy when that was never what we were going to get. Luke, Han and Leia are supporting characters in the ST. They always were going to be. Hamill and Lucas both mentioned Hamill having the Kenobi role in the ST and when Qui-gon died in the PT, I expected that Luke would die in the ST. The is the way of mythic stories, the old generation passed so the new can take over.
And I feel TROS epicly rounds out the saga by bringing back Palpatine as a clone. And his return is like the rest of the ST. He has not risen to full power yet and must be stopped before it is too late. Rather than resetting the OT, the ST has reset to a point in ROTS where the old Republic could still have been saved. I find the ST a nice mix of the PT and OT. I also find it has fewer flaws than the PT. Lucas’s story telling is far too subtle in the PT. It is great if you like uncovering the layers, but far too many didn’t want to bother and the clear story has far too many holes in it. Too many mysteries unsolved. The ST returned to the OT’s more blunt story telling while having a few mysteries. Abrams crafted TFA with far too many for a trilogy. And wisely TLJ shuts a few of them down. TROS doesn’t really course correct as much as some people think. The ST was setup, not to be a restart of ANH, but to put the galaxy in the position that this time we need to stop them BEFORE this new enemy, a remnant of the old Empire, takes over again. The First Order is never the entrenched evil empire in the ST, only the rising danger. Leia’s resistance is positioned to block them. And they know it because they go after them. Even in TROS after a year they still haven’t solidified any hold on the Galaxy and victory is still possible for the resistance.
I think there is too much emphasis on the flaws of the ST without looking at how it succeeds. TFA is full of flaws forcing TLJ to cut a couple off and TROS has to tie up everything. And if you look carefully, the entire ST follows Palpatine’s vacillating. Palpatine doesn’t care if Kylo Ren or Rey wins, he just wants to possess the winner. The ST also bounced back and forth. First Kylo Ren is set on proving that Rey is nothing and no one, before he finds out she really is someone. Reversals are a staple of story telling. Think of LOTR. Who destroys the ring? It isn’t Frodo or Sam, it is Gollum. Star Wars is based on myths and in those ancient myths, things don’t always play out like you think. I think the ST does an imperfect but good job of using that mythic structure. It has a solid core, but if you don’t look beyond the surface, you won’t see it. Very like the PT and Lucas’s too subtle concepts.