1. The Rebellion.
While the original trilogy paints the Rebellion against the Empire in a more romanticized way, this film does not shy away from the violence and bitterness of war. It shows how the Rebellion has effected those involved and also how the Empire’s existence has affected everybody else. It is in essence, a World War II movie that happens to take place in outer space.
2. No Jedi.
A questionable reason. But without the Jedi, it essentially lessens the spirituality of this particular story. It makes it less of a story of the rise of a hero, and more about a mission. It becomes a movie with a more complex plot. Essentially, it removes the fantasy factor to a degree.
3. The Force.
The Force is presented as more of a religion in this film, mostly because none of the main characters presented are Force-sensitive like the Jedi or the Sith are. It makes the Force itself seem like more of a sentient being and less of a magical superpower. And in doing so, makes us as audience members, better understand the Force in a way not presented in any previous movies.
4. A better prequel.
One could make the argument that this is a more of prequel than the prequel trilogy. While episodes 1, 2, and 3 take place decades before the originals, this film shows us more familiar characters and situations all too similar.
5. A familiar era.
By taking place just before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope, it revisits the Star Wars universe that most grown ups today are very familiar with. In revisiting this era, we can not only experience again the thrills of the original, but we can also see how to expand it. In ways the prequel trilogy just couldn’t do.