Director J.J. Abrams, who also helped bring Star Wars out of hibernation with The Force Awakens, described The Rise of Skywalker as a "pendulum swing" in the opposite direction of The Last Jedi. In a New York Times interview, he praised the previous film for being subversive and taking bold choices, but he noted, "On the other hand, it's a bit of a meta approach to the story. I don't think that people go to 'Star Wars' to be told, 'This doesn't matter." The problem with Rise of Skywalker, like many nostalgia-infused projects, is that it holds everything that came before it with such reverence, there's little room to add anything new. (Billy Dee Williams once again plays Lando Calrissian in the film. But why is he there, beyond delivering a dose of nostalgia? Never mind, onto the next set piece!)
I suppose we could have seen this coming. The Force Awakens also tapped into our memories of the franchise, so much so that many consider it a practical remake of A New Hope. Abrams works best when he's playing with concepts that we already understand, instead of forcing us to consider new perspectives. But even so, that movie also gave us plenty of time to learn about the new characters: Rey, an orphaned scavenger with latent Force abilities; Finn, a former Stormtrooper raised as a child solider; Poe Dameron, a hot-shot pilot; and Kylo Ren, a Sith warrior who wants to redeem the legacy of his grandfather, Darth Vader.