So I took a few days to digest precisely everything I saw in The Last Jedi. My immediate emotions coming out of the theatre was one of frustration and oddly, anger, but I didn't know why then. The next day I digested all manners of spoiler reviews and discussion, and the picture in my head became clear.
I was conflicted because Episode 8 disregards every question that was left to be answered in Episode 7. Luke seeing his old lightsaber after 40 years? He tosses it into the ocean after 5 seconds of contemplation. Who are Rey's parents? Simply nobodies. Who is Snoke and how he came to be so powerful? Never explained. The Resistance base planet? Destroyed in the opening act. Maz Kanata's "a good story for another time" - how she came to possess Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber? Nothing.
I'd go as far as to say Rian Johnson had contempt for What JJ Abrams started in The Force Awakens.
Heading into The Last Jedi I knew about the massive deficit between the critics score and the audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. I was full of excitement and anticipation because I'd thought it was major plot points and twists that are causing divide, and I'm all for a non-cookie cutter Star Wars story. Turns out I got to be disappointed at that, too. The Last Jedi is largely what I thought it would be: Rey gets trained by Luke, the First Order retaliates against the Resistance, Kylo tries to turn Rey to the dark side but get rejected, and Luke returns at the end to save the day.
All that in it of itself makes for a good and entertaining movie - if you disregard the severed connections with Episode 7. I guess a sizable amount of fans cannot do that, which explains the low Rotten Tomatoes audience score. I can't say they are wrong: one expects a proper saga film to answer questions laid out by the one preceding it. However, I think fan's heighten expectations after two years of rampant (and fun) speculation were so on an edge that by not paying off any of it in The Last Jedi, they felt absolutely cheated.
Looking back, that was exactly my thoughts after watching the movie, and some of those sentiments stuck even after reading Rian's multiple explanations on his decisions. People suggests that upon additional viewings the film improves dramatically because all the pent up expectations were already crushed by the first watch (quite the caveat, wouldn't you say?). I'll have to see for myself when I do watch it again.
JJ is back on Episode 9, and I wonder if he alters anything in the plans to alleviate the fan backlash.
To balance out the negativity, here are some things I really liked in The Last Jedi. The fight scene in the throne room is easily the second best lightsaber sequence behind the duel of fates in Episode 1. Force ghost Yoda showing up (in original puppet form!) was a pleasant surprise and a memorable scene with Luke. Snoke's death at the hands of Kylo happened one film earlier than expected but I like how quickly Kylo has claimed agency over himself and the entire First Order. The opening battle of X-wings taking down a First Order 'Dreadnaught' ship, and the ending battle on the salt planet is visually spectacular. Lastly, I quite enjoy the additional levity and humor sprinkled throughout.
So here's my current verdict: The Last Jedi is a good Star Wars saga movie if you can ignore what was left behind in The Force Awakens.