The movie was revealed to have hit a 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and critic reviews were overall very good. However, the week after it was released internationally, things started to change. While the critic score on Rotten Tomatoes stayed above 90 percent, the audience score plummeted from the 60s down to the 50s, where it now sits at 50 percent. On Youtube, videos slamming the movie, Rian Johnson, and Disney were trending. The fan backlash regarding The Last Jedi has been real, and the movie is currently one of the most divisive in the long history of Star Wars.
It would beg the question of what The Last Jedi is. Is it one of the greatest entries in Star Wars canon, if not one of the best movies released in recent memory? Or is it an abomination that threatens to unravel all the good work the franchise has done in its 40-year long existence? Both sides of fans have been backing their stand to the death, and debates have raged in online forums, on video comment sections, and on live television. Disappointingly, some of the reaction to the movie has been too much.
To an extent, feelings regarding the movie have to be pushed aside for particular aspects of basic human interaction; there are certain things that will always be too far. The movie has sparked conflict between people, so much so that there have been things said and done that are absolutely volatile not just in the space of a fandom, but in the community of cinema itself. Some people, in defending their stance on the movie, have resorted to attacking those whose stance opposes theirs, using racist comments and have even started petitions to take down the hard work of the movie’s crew.
A common argument used in online reviews for the movie is that people who liked or disliked the movie are stupid, and aren’t true fans of the franchise. It’s tough to imagine one person arriving at this conclusion on their own, but it seems as though this logic is stronger when backed by multiple people. “You don’t think like us, so you’re wrong” is the fuel keeping the fire of the argument burning. It’s a bad way of getting your point across, and using the argument doesn’t actually make any case for anyone being right. And to criticize a person for liking or not liking something is criminally absurd. To each is their own, isn’t it? It’s almost as though having different opinions on a matter is something unheard of.
One of the gripes that many people have with the movie is a subplot regarding John Boyega’s Finn and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, that of which is said to be the root of most of the movie’s problems. It’s a fair criticism that people have, as it points out certain mistakes the movie made. Nonetheless, some people, when pointing this out, use racist comments in attempts to back their claims. John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran are actors whose race fall into minorities, and so it’s easy for some people to attack the actors for that. Rose Tico hasn’t been a character received well by Star Wars fans, and that’s testament to her receiving tags such as “dumb Asian girl” or “Asian Jar Jar” from the community. It’s one thing to criticize a professional performance, however it’s another to direct hate at actors out of racism. It’s disgusting, immature, and out of line to the essence of the conversation.
Lastly, much abuse has been directed at the creative heads of the movie. Around a week after the movie came out, Star Wars’ twitter account tweeted a happy birthday tweet to The Last Jedi’s director Rian Johnson. The tweet was responded to by hundreds of other accounts fighting over the quality of the movie, with some attacking the account, demanding that Rian Johnson scrap the movie and redo it. Petitions also started popping up online with incredulous demands; on the list of demands were to remove The Last Jedi from canon, to force Rian Johnson into taking the movie down, and to record a formal apology, and to give the keys to the franchise back to creator George Lucas.
From the perspective of an ordinary moviegoer, it’s easy to forget that movies are akin to works of art. As artists have to diligently work on their craft, so do producers, directors, and film crews. The respect people must have for the craft that others produce is so easily lost in the anonymity given by the internet. It’s so easy to be detached and to lambast those in charge of such a big project. Granted, anyone taking on something with as big a name as Star Wars should expect to have a target painted on their back no matter how good a job they do, but it’s not something that’s right. Nearly two years were spent in the development of this film, and whether or not one liked it, respect must be given where it’s due. Take into consideration that Rian Johnson is a director proven to have delivered with successful films such as Looper and Brick, and it becomes obvious that even people with the best of reputations aren’t absolved from this type of abuse.
It’s disappointing to see that this is what has become of the reaction to the latest Star Wars movie. Had the discussion about the movie been purely about its faults and merits—both of which it definitely has plenty of—then perhaps the Star Wars universe could be more richly defined, and fans of the franchise could come away with new insights and ways to view the film. Since the general reaction has been that of hatred, it signifies that perhaps Star Wars fans need to rearrange their priorities, and change their ways of responding to what they might like or dislike; it’s the only way any of their opinions will matter.
As for the quality of the movie? The fans that are willing to discuss it rationally have brought up two instances where other films in the Star Wars franchise had mixed receptions. In 1980, The Empire Strikes Back was released, and there were a significant amount of people who disliked the movie, bashing its darker tone, and its “betrayal” of the elements established in its predecessor, only to have been revered not just as one of the best in the franchise as the years have gone by, but as one of the best movies ever produced.
In 1999, The Phantom Menace hit theaters, and it was seen as one of the best in the franchise, harkening back to what made the original Star Wars so good while injecting the advancements in technology within the past 20 years in order to make it look better, only for people to view it now as the first of three poorly received helmed by George Lucas. The main question on the mouths of these fans are whether or not The Last Jedi will be the misunderstood gem Empire Strikes Back was, or the false idol that was The Phantom Menace. It’s a question only time will be able to answer.
My money’s on it being the former. But that’s for another time.