What I liked...
I thought they moved the characters forward. They did seem to focus on Rey and Kylo Ren most. There was a lot of interaction between them when they were Force-modem connected by Snoke. Their relationship grew as they communicated and wrestled (mentally) with each other (much like this thread) to convince the other side that they could slide over. This was a key theme. Luke saw that Rey was teetering on the edge of the dark side (ie, the dark hole).
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren also struggled with his light-side demons as he chose not to kill his mother. We saw Poe's character develop as more of a headstrong, anti-authority character. Meanwhile the director tried to start this Finn and Rose relationship as they introduced Rose as a love interest character for Finn - I think the Rose/Finn relationship was the least successful character development - no spark there for me.
Luke's character had changed. He had made mistakes. He had become cynical, old, curmudgeonly. He had become a shadow of his former self; disconnecting from the force that had brought him both glory and pain.
The scene between Luke and R2-D2 was special. Luke and R2 had come a long ways from their chance meeting so long ago. R2-D2 let's Luke know that he's being an ass. When R2-D2 shows Luke the video message from Leia it really brought the story full circle. Luke decides to train Rey. Brilliant moment by the director/writers in my opinion.
The battles kicked ass! The opening bombing scene on the Dreadnought was awesome. I'm not going to let a little thing like space physics get in the way of a fun battle. I mean come on people, nearly every sci-fi flick asks you to suspend physics!!! Clearly the scene was inspired by WWII bombers.
The lightspeed jump through the other dreadnought was crazy! The silence was very jolting as Holdo rams the Rebel cruiser through Snoke's ship. It was a great moment. At the end of the day, Star Wars is about "space war" and the battle sequences were pure Star Wars! Huge ships, overwhelming odds, etc. It delivered for me.
BTW, I hated the Laura Dern character keeping a secret about the ultimate plan. Upon reflection, it did make sense. Poe had been demoted, disregarding the chain of command and wasn't acting trustworthy. Why would they share the plan? that would be kept as secret as possible. Just my take.
I also thought the final battle with Kylo Ren kicked ass. The shot from behind Luke as he faced the M6-ATs that was chilling. Ren opens fire on Luke in a massive barrage of fire power. Freaking awesome scene with Luke brushing the dust from his shoulder. Luke is BACK and badder than ever!
I loved the humor. I guess I wasn't married to all of the set-up from TFA. When Luke tosses his ligh saber over his shoulder, the theater exploded with laughter. It was one of many very funny moments. Star Wars has always had its humor. I think RJ added his stamp to the series by cranking up the humor a notch. I thought the Porgs were hilarious but not integral to any plot line like the ewoks. Porgs became tension-releasers during the battle sequences. The scene with Chewy trying to eat a porg was hilarious. The audience in my showing seemed to love the porg humor.
Twists on old SW devices
So many of the traditional SW ploy devices were used in TLJ. However, they weren't always used in the same way. Snoke was the new Emperor, the new super villian. Except he was killed unexpectedly. Nice twist. I think director was trying to get us to think Kylo Ren was going "good" on us but the twist was he sought to be the Supreme Leader. Snoke did sense resolve in Kylo Ren but it was his undoing. People complained that Snoke was never developed but neither was the Emperor in the first three movies.
The other old device re-deployed was the Obi-Wan, "if you strike me down" moment. I'm really surprised that some people didn't get the ending. You may not have liked it but it was consistent with the SW universe. The twist was that when he let Kylo Ren strike him down, he wasn't really there at all. Yet it has the same effect... like Obi Wan and Yoda before him, it was his time to move on and become a Force Ghost. The scene of him silhouetted against the dual suns was the book-end to his life. It hearkened back to when he first started his journey on Tatooine where he stood against the backdrop of the dual suns and made the decision to fight the empire.
TLJ was a dense story with a lot plots and sub plots going on. Relationships were forming and other characters were coming to an end. For me, the movie made many mistakes. For example, continuity editing could have been better. It was hard to piece together Rose "dying" and making it back to the bunker. A simple shot of Finn struggling to pull her through the ensuing battle would have explained that. Rey goes through training with Luke but we see very little indication of the amount of training... was it really 3 lessons? How long did it take? A few extra moments on film could have cleared up a lot. Overall, the good exceeded the bad and the pace was fast enough for me that I didn't linger on the absurdity of space physics and other non sequiturs.