When I came out of the theatre after seeing The Last Jedi the first time, I was hugely confounded and frustrated. How could director Rian Johnson so cavalierly toss away and disregard plot-points set up by The Force Awakens? Rey's parents were nobodies!? You're not going to explain how Snoke - an all-powerful being of the Dark Side - came about? What of the Knights of Ren? How Luke's lightsaber came to be in Maz Kanata's vault?
Honestly I was so disgusted with the film I couldn't bring myself to see it again in the theatre. A roman numeral Star Wars saga movie ought to follow the strings left by the preceding film, and hardly the proper place to "go a different route". For the all the crap tossed at Episode 7 for being formulaic: well, it worked, didn't it? Us fans lapped it up to it becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time.
That was my thought process heading into a second viewing of Episode 8, which recently came out on home media. Instead of looking for satisfactory answers to questions asked by the previous film - which I knew The Last Jedi would not provide - I tried to see The Last Jedi for what it is, and not through the harsh fan-boy prism.
The Last Jedi is a brilliant movie.
Indeed my fan-boy expectations colored my thoughts during the theatrical release, but with those out of the way, I found the themes presented in The Last Jedi to be some of the deepest and most thought-provoking. The Force isn't some special talent bestowed only to few: It's the lifestream innate in the entire Universe. It takes no special DNA or Skywalker lineage to wield it, a concept showcased nicely in in the film by the tragic insignificance of Rey's parents.
Luke Skywalker isn't a messianic figure we've all known him to be: he's a fallible human, full of doubts and mistakes. The Jedi myth blinded him into a hubris that ultimately led to the turn of Ben Solo into Kylo Ren. Luke's self-imposed exile isn't an act of weakness, nor does it diminish the Skywalker mythos - because it's a sham. He explains to Rey that his canonization is how they got into the present mess. Yes, he supposedly brought balance to the force by rescuing his father from the Dark Side, but the Force isn't localized to such an event: it will always seek balance, with or without a Skywalker.
Which explains the existence of Snoke. The Empire's destruction actually left an imbalance in the Force: Snoke was conjured up by the universe to counteract the immense good Luke represented, just as Rey is the counterbalance to Kylo Ren. There's no need to give Snoke a backstory: he exists because of Luke, and when Snoke got killed by Kylo Ren, Luke was then free to leave as well.
I think The Last Jedi is definitely the most "human" of all the saga films, which I guess can be disappointing for those looking for Star Wars to be this epic space opera with fantastical provenance. I was that person, but after seeing the film a second time I can appreciate the new paradigm to the story Rian Johnson is telling.
Of course I still would've liked further information on the Knights of Ren, and how Luke's lightsaber forsook him (or did he forsake it?) into the hands of Maz Kanata. Something for Episode 9, perhaps.