I loved this and I don't quite get why this would "ruin" anyone's childhood. I have to admit this audience commentary led me to anticipate a kiss between Finn and Poe or for midi-chlorians to be a major plot point, or for Jar Jar to show up for an explicit sex scene. Apparently it's a much more subtle slight to a minority of audience members that had trouble with the movie either because it didn't mimic the trailer enough, had too many POC or women or the women weren't sexualized enough or they thought Porgs looked delicious and they felt ripped off. Anyway, spoilers ahead!
This may not be entirely in chronological order...
The opening of the movie is filled with World War II battle themes. This isn't something new to Star Wars, Lucas modeled the space battles of the original trilogy on fighter pilot dog fights from the world wars and planes attacking battleships in both theaters of WWII. Here, Rose is in a bomber that is a big slow target for anti-aircraft weapons. She has to get herself right next to the dangerous bombs to release them on their targets at the last moment like Major Kong in Dr. Strangelove. Poe flies in alone to distract the enemy with his unlikely and shocking frontal attack from a single person that distracts just long enough for every one else to attack a beat later like Major Winters in the Band of Brothers miniseries.
Yoda is in this movie. He's been dead a long time in the Galaxy of Star Wars, but like Darth Plegueis, he was able to beat death by becoming a force ghost. Luke, Rey and Kylo also seem to tap into this corner of the force by projecting themselves like force ghosts as means to communicate like Rey and Kylo, or as a physical manifestation through space like Luke. They are not dead, themselves, but they are capable of using similar powers as a force ghost. This corner of using the force power is not new to the series as Luke was able to communicated with Leia as she was leaving Cloud City to have her come back with Lando to pick him up at the end of Empire.
Speaking of which, Leia, Luke's sister and Anakin's daughter communicated with Luke using that force power of communication despite no other hints that she had the power of a Jedi. She finally gets to show off her genetic proclivities toward the force in her near death experience. With a force jump through space, Leia makes her way back onto the ship after the bridge is bombed out. She had it in her all along.
In a way, this plot point that Leia beats death through the force is both an honor in writing to make her part of the force, but complicates her posthumous involvement in the series. That is a good twist that Carrie Fisher that passed away before release everything to not get killed off. Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd does have a great role with a lot of weight that seems more the result of Carrie's negotiation for coming back to the series than a tribute. Lourd may have her mother to thank for getting into the last two movies, but her presence brings it's own weight to a smaller character as she is captivating to watch on screen.
The Last Jedi has a great visual explanation of the force from Luke to Rey in their training that mirrors that of Obiwan's force speech to Luke in Episode IV. In the end, Rey's simplified first impression of the force leads her to understand how to save the rebels. Rey with Luke and Luke with Yoda trainings from this movie and Episode V both find Rey and Luke confronting their dark side training with themes of parentage and their own identities. I was glad that the story of Rey's parentage (even if Kylo's vision might not be all that reliable) has her rising from a nobody from nowhere rather that some familial succession of the force.
Through the training of Rey she learns of the reasoning for Kylo's termination of training by Luke by talking to Kylo through force communications and with Luke during her training. Luke gives two explanations of the night Kylo burned down the place of his training and Rey has to piece together these stories to find some truth. This is the whole idea of the classic Kurosawa samurai movie Rashomon. This fits like a glove into the mythology that Star Wars picks from going back to 1977 as George Lucas used elements of another Kurosawa samurai classic Hidden Fortress for his story themes. He uses the physicality of the droids and the story from their perspective from Kurosawa's peasant characters. Hidden Fortress has a strong princess who takes agency of her situation and a swordsman who stages dramatic duels with swords and spears.
When the J.J. Abrams took over the Star Trek franchise in the not too distant past there were a lot of comments that he had Star Wars'd up Star Trek through fast pacing and action. This installment might be compared to the more recent series of Battlestar Galactica for the longer section of story where the Rebels are on the run from villains for an extended time. Abrams' Star Trek experience has solidified in the new run of Star Wars as I noticed a few lens flares (personally, I have zero gripes about the lens flares and I like the aesthetic). Not only that, there was at least one wipe across the screen for an edit that George Lucas was known for in episodes IV-VI, a technique he was inspired to use from Kurosawa who was one of the few directors to use wipe edits and letterbox presentations.
George Lucas (supposedly) was a fan of writing in ring theory where the two trilogies reference each other in themes perhaps on a scene by scene and character development basis. This movie may or may not use ring theory but it certainly references past Star Wars properties. I really enjoyed the mineral planet sequence that involves a space ship chase through a crystallized mine or canyon or cave. It primarily reminded me of a game I played from 1993 on my computer, Rebel Assault, the first Star Wars game I remember seeing that allowed the player to fly an X-Wing through a canyon in one of the early levels. That canyon was on the route of the pod race in Episode I and was also reminiscent of the trench run in Episode IV. The mining planet is like Hoth in appearance although not climate and also has the great blast doors of Hoth. Speaking of trenches, the rebels prepare for the Hoth-like attack by hunkering down in some World War I style trenches with their antiquated war technology.
The casino is an interesting take on the cantina scene from Episode IV (and Maz's cantina from Episode VII) as it shows the scummy side of decadence in a take off of Monaco or Dubai. Benicio del Toro brings to life a charmingly stuttering mixture of Boba Fett and Lando Calrissian who is both helpful to the rebels but turns on them when he can get a cut to save his own ass. The casino scene also one ups the idea of the Episode I pod racing scene by showing an alien creature racing scene with slave children where Rose and Finn are tasked to save the kids and creatures while saving themselves and their mission. My one question is if del Toro was the man they were actually looking for who had lost his pin while gambling or a thieving beneficiary to the situation?
When Vader announced to Luke their familial relationship in Episode V, he gave an offer that they could rule the Empire together. I don't recall if he mentions that for them to do this (there are always two Sith lords) they would have to ultimately kill the Emperor to overtake him. By Episode VI when they do kill the Emperor, they do not do it to replace him, rather to redeem Anakin and save the rebellion. Kylo kills Snoke and proposes to Rey that they could rule the galaxy together, however Snoke is just the next father figure (after Han in Episode VII) in line for Kylo to kill and replace (rather than redeem) while Anakin/Vader regains his fatherhood.
Kylo throws everything at the Millennium Falcon and Luke in the final battle in an act that seems foolish to the Domhnall Gleeson character. Vader had the exact same strategy in the original movies to go after that ship and person rather than focusing on the rest of the rebellion. Kylo's strategy is to take out the strongest that the Rebels have to offer and to destroy the symbols of the Rebellion. Vader's impulsive actions helped create these symbols by giving Luke and the Millennium Falcon the opportunity to fight back and defeat the Empire and himself.
Domhnall Gleeson's character's strategy to track the rebels through space happens to fill a very overlooked plot hole from the empire's pursuit of Luke and friends in Episodes IV-VI. Vader seems to follow them through space by luck with help of the force at times. Seriously, the empire spends three movies chasing one ship through space instead of focusing on the Rebellion's leadership and strongest forces.
Rose and Finn save a group of children in the casino scene and we seem to see one of the kids they save from the stables in the final scene of the movie. He is telling the story of Luke stalling Kylo in the final action sequence as the story has traveled through the galaxy. He leaves his storytelling to go back to sweeping, but as he grabs the broom he seems to pull it toward his hand by using the force. This mirrors (in a much more time efficient way) the final scene of the 1979 Soviet sci-fi movie Stalker from Tarkovsky where a mutant child slowly moves cups across a table using his mind to show the extensive power of the Zone. It seems as though the power of the force has expanded throughout the galaxy and beyond the bloodlines of old Jedi.
Noms: Rian Johnson for writing and directing, Special Effects and Stunts for the movie, Benicio del Toro and Adam Driver for acting.