Chris Allen’s review published on Letterboxd:
This film takes full advantage of the story it wants to tell, and not one minute of it is wasted. It's been 40 years of watching this film for me (probably seen it 100 times) so ideas that I am positive I've had before sometimes seem new to me on subsequent viewing. Paraphrasing a famous line to help me understand how I can recognize something I know I've realized before: "I've forgotten more about this film series than I'll ever know."
The "friends" plot-line is what drives this film series (between Empire and Jedi, specifically) and is the real backbone of it. I fell like focusing the next six films on the Skywalker Saga is why we get such conflicting shitty stories.
On this watch, Han's "my friend's out there" on Hoth really hit that nail into my head. And it showcases the craft of this script and the way this continues to play out through it and the next film. "How do we get Luke to leave training early, to face a foe he can't possibly beat?" He has to save his friends. And Vader knows it, too! It's why he can't have any of them dead. If they die, Luke would know, and wouldn't come.
Luke owes Han his two rescues, so of course that propels Luke's actions. Leia is torn with her love for Han, and we get to see that develop over time as their adventures together bring them closer. Even Lando and Han's friendship is set up with betrayal, with Lando trying to make up for it risking his life on Han's rescue. And then there's Han & Chewie and Artoo & Threepio, friends to the end.
The best parts of the sequel trilogy for me was our new friends getting to know each other. Finn and Poe's escape from the Star Destroyer was exhilarating, and Finn and Rey's friendship is built through their adventure together. It becomes cliche later, but Finn's chase and exasperation when Rey gets captured by Kylo in TFA gives me chills every time. Compare that with the absolute worst part of the prequel trilogy: skipping past the entirety of Obi-Wan and Anakin's friendship during an elevator ride with one single sentence. We don't get to know anything about their struggles together, and it was a missed opportunity to promote Anakin's character development. And don't get me started on the Anakin/Padme relationship. What a joke.
Anyway, I am glad to have the original trilogy. Empire is a perfect film, and all the sequel and prequel trilogy films pale in comparison, except for The Last Jedi, which actually did something original with the characters it was given.