As much enjoyment as I’ve gotten from TLJ in the past (see this and this), I am coming to hate it more and more. Yes, J.J. Abrams left whoever was coming after TFA with a lot of mystery boxes–Rey’s parents, Snoke’s origin, Ben’s turn to the Dark Side, the origins of the First Order and the Knights of Ren. Rian Johnson clearly hates mystery boxes so he blew them all up, or just ignored them. Even Ben’s turn to the Dark Side is given short shrift; by the time Luke goes to confront him, he’s already been corrupted by Snoke (how? when?). But what did Johnson leave for the next director in line? Pretty much nothing. A dozen survivors on the Millennium Falcon is pretty damned small seed from which to grow a third movie.
If TFA left too many questions for the next movie, TLJ left nothing at all. Contrast it with the end of ESB. The Rebel fleet is a Chekhov’s gun, now we know the Rebels have a fleet with some big-ass capital ships, we can expect some stuff to go down in the next movie. Lando and Chewie are off to rescue Han, Yoda’s still out there on Dagobah, and Luke has promised to go back and complete his training. Even if George Lucas had been hit by a bus the day ESB opened, he’d left plenty of threads for someone to make a third movie. People are piling on J.J. Abrams for shoveling so much backstory into TROS, like Leia’s Jedi training, Luke’s search for Exegol, and just Exegol full stop, but hell, what was JJ supposed to do? TLJ left him nothing to build on, so of course the first chunk of Ep 9 had to be an alternate Ep 8 so there would be some stuff to resolve. Everyone and their dog is now saying that TROS should have been either three hours long, or split across two movies (and this started well before #ReleaseTheJJCut took off). Although they aren’t saying it in so many words, this is a tacit acknowledgement that Rian Johnson kicked the chair out from under whoever was coming after him.
I think the convention wisdom on the sequel trilogy is going to go south, soon, and stay there. The prequels may have been the most woodenly-acted, bloodless exercises in pure worldbuilding that have ever made it to the big screen, but at least they gave us new things to look at (and, er, competent worldbuilding). The sequels are individually watchable, collectively kind of a storytelling dumpster fire, and ultimately just depressing. Because they could have, and should have, been much better.
(Yes, this is my grumpy old man hangover post on the whole sequel trilogy. And maybe just the first in a series!)