Force Awakens was OK, but was slightly incoherent. So apparently the Imperials are fighting the New Republic and the"resistance." But who is winning? What is the political situation? And why does the resistance seem so decrepit and underfunded?
I'm not convinced the writers know the answers to those questions (much like Abrams' TV series, "Lost.")
Abrams throws a lot of interesting visuals on-screen - which is his strength - but there's not a lot underneath. He requires COMPLETE suspension of disbelief. He wrote "Armageddon" lol. And I have yet to find anyone who can explain the nonsensical plot of "Star Trek Into Darkness" without cheating and looking it up. The "plot" in his movies is usually just a device to set up the next insane action scene. I find it jarring and obvious. This one was better than most of his other work, but it certainly was not great.
Rogue One OTOH was crisp, clean, focused. It tied into the original films in ways I hadn't thought possible, while introducing plenty of interesting new characters and scenery.
The best thing about it was that it showed how nightmarish life under the Empire would be. The Imperials are arguably worse than they've ever been, and it shows why even the most jaded individuals could be coaxed into giving their lives up to fight them.
The squabbling, cruelty, and petty thuggery among the Imperial officers was disturbingly realistic, the sort of thing you hear about in real-life dictatorships.
Really terrific stuff. I liked Force Awakens, but really Rogue One is just a better film in almost every area.