Yeah, I've been expecting this response, my comment was so vague. The world is definitely deeply dipped into Star Wars. This is The Hobbit, barely resembling LOTR. It has all the detail in the characters and production design. What I mean to say is, there is a serious lack of fun. It's not a dour movie like Nolan or Snyder, there are jokes and they're good ones, but there's none of the "yee haw" swashbuckling excitement that is the bedrock of the series until the finale. The tone of the adventure is more dramatic than any of the other Star Wars films (and I'm not referring to the end, but the first 90 minutes.) That's a way to tell it and something that will set the stand-alones apart from the main trilogies, but I'm not going to want to watch it again.
* * * - Okay
There will be much more to say once we've all seen it. For right now I just want to say re-watchibility is very low, which is out of step for a Star Wars movie. Even the prequels have more moments I would look forward to seeing again. The story takes over 90 minutes to realize it's Star Wars.
What does this mean to you?
Because I didn't feel that THE FORCE AWAKENS was "STAR WARS", but I definitely felt that ROGUE ONE was "STAR WARS" - from start to finish.
I feel you may have walked yourself into that one.
But no, there's always this lurking darkness to all of the STAR WARS films, it's often pretty muted, but that said darkness is generally the reason why EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is lauded as the best (I still prefer A NEW HOPE, but only slightly; they're both masterpieces) of the franchise. Here they externalize it A LOT but so? These are, after all, WAR films - I'd wager that its the fantastical elements of the wizardry that keeps it from being as "swashbuckling" as the previous seven - the film shows a reality that is generally swept aside in exchange for more spectacle.
Perhaps this is why - and excuse me for using this term extremely liberally - you dislike Italian Neorealism?
All of the characters here live on the margins of the galaxy, they are almost instantly forgotten after they succeed in their mission. I was always ready for all of them to die.
Also, THE HOBBIT was never meant to resemble LORD OF THE RINGS, it's attempts to do so were the problem - it's more lighthearted in tone and nature as a novel than the film. That's why it should've only been two - TOPS - films.
I feel like this resembled the original trilogy far more accurately than THE FORCE AWAKENS did (which it obviously was trying to do) but I also feel it was different enough to justify its own trilogy (despite it being a standalone, which I respect). I told my friend that I was seeing it with that STAR WARS, to me, wasn't ever so much about the characters - the OT were more or less stock archetypes - but the plot and this one was aces. This is why I had such a problem with THE FORCE AWAKENS - it cared way too much about the new characters (who were ultimately still lacking in major development in order to provide necessary fan service for the older characters) and not nearly enough about the plot that drove them. I think with stories one often drives one more than the other, here all of the characters are driven by the plot - they ultimately have no choice. That lack of choice is what made A NEW HOPE so fascinating to me. At one point, Rey has a choice to go back to Jakku and makes it (despite the plot throwing its necessary/predictable curveball to have her stay). Luke has none because the Empire is such an oppressive force. Neither does Jyn. Nor does Anakin in ATTACK OF THE CLONES once his mother dies (another reason PHANTOM MENACE fails is because Anakin isn't an active protagonist, but I digress).
I hope all this makes sense!