There's a saying: “the people who hate Star Wars the most are Star Wars fans.” Unfortunately, it’s true. However, to be completely fair to Star Wars fans, it's not an easy series to love. For every Empire Strikes Back there's an Attack of the Clones. In terms of the sequel trilogy, that's The Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker.
Somehow, just saying that is a controversial statement, a fact that is completely mind boggling. There's no doubt that The Last Jedi is a better movie than Rise of Skywalker, yet people still pretend that it is. Even worse, fans keep blaming the former for the crushing failures of the latter.
The Last Jedi isn't the reason Rise of Skywalker sucks
In the eyes of a large number of Star Wars fans, it's controversial to believe that The Last Jedi is one of the best movies in the franchise. Personally, I think it is: Rian Johnson's 2017 blockbuster is the only Star Wars flick to rival Empire Strikes Back. It’s an engaging, beautiful movie that takes the time to explore the consequences of The Force Awakens' events.
Even better, just like the old serials that inspired the original trilogy, it leaves viewers with morals to ponder. You can learn from failure; heritage isn't important; alien nipple milk tastes good. In comparison, Rise of Skywalker leaves us with two messages: you can only be redeemed if you die trying and you don't have to be as evil as your clone granddad of your clone dad.
Even if you don't like Last Jedi’s story, it's a narrative that feels thought out. Three years isn't a lot of time to create a movie, especially when you have to wait for the final cut to release before you can play off it. Despite this, Jedi is a great sequel to The Force Awakens that doesn't just feel like a traditional follow up. Most of its choices are only logical conclusions from what was given in the prior film.
However, a lot of fans treat the ending of Last Jedi as a trilogy bookend. With Snoke dead, fans couldn't see where a third movie could go. Apparently, there always has to be a puppet master behind the scenes to create an engaging third movie. It's utterly bizarre; all a third movie would need is some imagination. It comes as no surprise that Rise of Skywalker completely lacks any imagination whatsoever.
Rise of Skywalker couldn't think its way out of an open field
Star Wars: The Last Jedi did leave things at an awkward state. Luke is dead, Snoke is dead, the resistance has been crushed. It was a dour ending that finished with the good guys at a massive disadvantage and Kylo Ren in charge of the First Order. Considering his humiliation at the hands of Luke Skywalker, Kylo would've been even more eager to destroy his enemies.
Jedi gave its sequel a familiar yet unique landscape for a sequel to play in, just like Empire to the other Jedi. Hope is spreading through the galaxy, the stakes are higher than ever, Rey is free of familial burden. Rise of Skywalker had more to play with than any Star Wars movie before it! It still ballsed it up.
It’s more than fair to say that Rise of Skywalker was more worried about pleasing already upset fans than just being good. Every scene in Skywalker feels the need to “fix" something from Jedi, but that's not Jedi's fault. The Last Jedi explicitly asks fans and future stories to propel Star Wars further, to push the series out of retro retread into an expanded universe. Stop rehashing; do a DCEU and take some risks!
It’s not the point of a sequel to retcon things people didn't like. The point is to build on, explore the characters and enhance the world around them. Mad Max 2 doesn't nuke the events of its predecessor despite being completely different in setting, tone and story.
The perceived failures of The Last Jedi are not what made The Rise of Skywalker fall flat on its face. Rise of Skywalker screams with a lack of creativity; of course, Disney's rushed production schedule far from helped this. However, at least Star Wars is moving on.