I finally got around to watching The Force Awakens and Rogue One. I ended up enjoying them a lot more than I thought I would.
TFA, while basically being a ANH clone, I found to be more enjoyable than the latter two prequel films. It's nowhere near the top of my list, but it's a solid entry. Poe and Finn wound up becoming my favorite new characters. I really wanted to like Rey because, hey, finally a prominent female lightsaber-user in the main film series. Unfortunately, I was unimpressed with her lack of personality and disproportionate skill level for her origins. I mean, she picks up a weapon she's never used before (lightsaber) and bests a prominent dark side user who has had years of training despite having absolutely no force-usage training herself. At least post-TPM Anakin had a few moments where he failed big time and had to pay the price. Rey never has to face consequences for her actions because she can fight, talk, and repair her way out of anything. I'm ok with static characters that don't develop, as long as their level of skill is explained by their rank or past experiences. Palpatine is a good example of this type of character in the prequels. He starts off basically perfect and has no character development at all in the entire saga, but he doesn't need it because he is already established from the get-go as being a master Sith Lord. His skill level is believable because it fits his backstory. Rey, as a scavenger with no training, shouldn't be anywhere near as good as she is. I also think the actress they picked was a poor choice for the role.
As for Kylo, easily my least favorite dark side user in the series. He radiates weakness, which is not good for a character who is supposed to be the face of the new big bad regime. His shocking immaturity and lack of saber skills, combined with the most prominent feature of his character being his Vader fanboyism, make the First Order look like a joke. He gets his butt kicked in a saber fight by an untrained scavenger, for crying out loud. That would be like Luke jumping into the fight after Obi-Wan dies and besting Vader with a lightsaber in ANH. It makes Kylo come across as a cosplaying fanboy who's been given a prominent leadership role, rather than an intimidating villain.
Rogue One was a film I really enjoyed, and is now in my top four favorite SW films. It had a diverse cast of characters who, while being somewhat underdeveloped, were at least far more visually distinct than their TFA counterparts. Chirrut ended up being my favorite, as I liked his personality, background, and design the most. I also love the idea of there being more monk-like force users in the galaxy who fight using weapons other than lightsabers, really cool idea there. As for Jyn, I liked her more than Rey, although she does suffer from some of the same issues. At least her instant badness dial wasn't turned up to 11 like it was with Rey, and she had a personality to speak of. Her skills were also backed up by her established background as a resistance fighter. She also had some noticeable bounce going on in a few scenes. Visible bounce is a sign that the force loves us and wants us to be happy. As for Cassian, he was a decent main character I guess. His biggest flaw was being too soft-spoken, to the point where it was hard to hear him at certain points during the film. The romance between him and Jyn at the end did feel forced, though. They spent most of the film clashing, and he did try to kill her father, and now they're making out? Oh well, still a more believable romance than Padmanakin, I guess.
The film did have some other issues, such as the slow start and some canon-breaking elements like the original Death Star being able to target objects the size of capital ships, but it was mostly made up for by the Scarif battle, which is going down as my favorite land battle sequence in the entire saga. The whole thing was visually stunning, and I love how it featured space-to-ground combat for the first time in the saga, with both the land and space forces backing each other up. Finally we got to see the big picture of what goes on during one of these battles.
Overall, my current ranking of the films from favorite to least favorite looks like this:
Return of the Jedi
The Phantom Menace
The Empire Strikes Back
A New Hope
The Force Awakens
Revenge of the Sith
Attack of the Clones
I haven't seen The Last Jedi yet, but I'll be getting the blu-ray on the 27th of March. I'm really hoping TLJ will change my mind about Rey and Kylo and make me like them as characters, but judging by what I've seen, that seems unlikely.