WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI!
I’ve been a Star Wars geek since I accidentally discovered the magic of George Lucas’ sci-fi wonderland back in 1986. This week, for the first time since the moment that video store clerk erroneously put the VHS tape of A New Hope into the cover of Breakin’ II: Electric Boogaloo (and no, I’m not making this up) and blew the mind of 5-year old me, I’ve been ashamed to be part of this fandom.
I really enjoyed The Last Jedi, the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga that follows on from 2015’s The Force Awakens, but there are others who didn’t. And that’s perfectly okay. Something that gets a positive emotional reaction out of one person can outright fail to do the same in another – that’s how art works. It’s also not as if The Last Jedi is above critical reproach, as there are definite missteps in the film’s plotting and scripting. The entire sequence with Finn and Rose on Canto Bight is a clumsily handled, unnecessary detour that is just there to keep the characters busy instead of actually adding significantly to the story. So too certain aspects of The Resistance’s long chase is extremely silly – If Admiral Holdo had actually just told the rest of her crew what her plan was instead of keeping everything secret for no logical reason, Poe would never have felt the need to take matters into his own hands and thus wouldn’t have resulted in him, Finn and Rose inadvertently ruining what was actually a sensible tactic and costing the Resistance hundreds of lives. AND WHO THE POODOO MADE THE MAP TO LUKE SKYWALKER’S SECRET ISLAND GETAWAY AND WHY BECAUSE HE CLEARLY DIDN’T WANT TO BE FOUND?! (As has been pointed out by Lucasfilm Story Group member Pablo Hidalgo to the same queries, the map is not to Luke but to the first Jedi temple, which Luke had been in search of and which Lor San Tekka had also been researching)
These and more are the types of mistakes that writer-director Rian Johnson made which deserves to be picked apart so that they don’t get made again. However, alongside all these very valid complaints, there arose a chorus of others that are utterly ridiculous. The biggest of these are accusations that The Last Jedi breaks the way the Force works. Correction: It breaks how these people think this universe and its characters work, and according to them their way is the only way, the unbreakable law, and if the people who actually created these stories deviated slightly it was heresy (because apparently I hallucinated how George Lucas kept introducing new Force powers and new understanding of it all the time in the Original Trilogy).
So Leia finally showing off Force powers and pulling herself out of a vacuum in space and sure death? Heresy. Rey being a badass fighter all on her own without ever receiving any formal training? Heresy. Snoke managing to connect Rey and Kylo Ren via the Force? Heresy. The heroic Luke Skywalker having been tempted to kill Kylo Ren and thus turning his back on the galaxy to become a bitter old man? Heresy. Rey turning out to be a complete nobody who just has a really strong connection to the Force instead of being yet another fated Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi’s granddaughter or even a clone of Emperor Palpatine? Heresy of the highest order!
It also didn’t help that The Last Jedi took the conventions of how Star Wars movies had previously been structured, and burned them all down, to paraphrase Luke himself, to keep things surprising and fresh. Here, the difference between Light and Dark was blurred, villains remained unredeemed, the tone was completely different to anything that has come before. Heck, even the signature “I have a bad feeling about this” line is hard to find (It’s actually the droid BB-8 that says it, but we just don’t understand him). And because of committing all these heinous acts and more, Johnson is apparently the worst thing to happen to Star Wars since the Christmas Special and Jar-Jar Binks. At least that’s according to these Star Wars “fans” who promptly began harassing Johnson on Twitter. Some of this harassment is inane (like hating on him and the movie for having “too many close-ups”), but a large portion of it is toxic as hell, with Johnson even getting violent threats. Yes, people want to physically hurt him for making a movie about laser swords.
Then there is what’s happening over on RottenTomatoes. The review aggregator currently has The Last Jedi sitting on 93%, which is exactly where you expect it to be after a flood of praise from critics. However, the film’s user review score is a whole other ballgame, currently sitting on 55%, the lowest any Star Wars movie has ever received. Not even Attack of the Clones with its Hayden Christensen speeches about sand sunk to those depths. How The Last Jedi’s user score got that low is another point of controversy as there have been claims (seemingly backed up by some evidence) that certain “fans” are deliberately tanking the score by using fake profiles/reviews and even automated bots.
What’s worse is that several of these “fan reviews”, real or not, including several on other platforms like Reddit and Youtube, seem to be more offended by the film’s inclusive politics than any filmmaking foibles. The term “SJW” is thrown around a lot, unfortunately right alongside several incredibly sexist and racist slurs, as these “fans” take issue with how Star Wars is apparently being ruined by modern social diversity movements. It appears that a universe as large and immensely creative as Star Wars is only allowed to be saved by white dudes.
Oh and in a it-would-be-laughable-if-I-wasn’t-so-angry-about-it twist, a petition has even sprung up demanding Disney scrap The Last Jedi from the official canon and remake the film entirely. Think about that for a second. Online petitions are already about as effective as a lightsaber made out of toothpaste, and yet somebody was so incensed, so blind with rage, that they thought it completely logical to demand a studio take a movie that’s the middle chapter of a set trilogy and which cost them upwards of $200 million to make – and which has also already earned just under $500 million back – and throw it on the trash heap just so that they could do it all over again. DO YOU GUYS HEAR HOW CRAZY YOU SOUND?
Criticism of something is a very healthy process. We can never improve if we don’t know what we did wrong, but the vilification of Johnson and The Last Jedi has long since gone past criticism. The ever composed filmmaker has taken all this slobbering fan rage in stride though, and even offered a very restrained response to the backlash recently via Business Insider:
Having been a “Star Wars” fan my whole life, and having spent most of my life on the other side of the curb and in that fandom, it softens the blow a little bit.
I’m aware through my own experience that, first of all, the fans are so passionate, they care so deeply — sometimes they care very violently at me on Twitter. But it’s because they care about these things, and it hurts when you’re expecting something specific and you don’t get it from something that you love. It always hurts, so I don’t take it personally if a fan reacts negatively and lashes out on me on Twitter. That’s fine. It’s my job to be there for that. Like you said, every fan has a list of stuff they want a “Star Wars” movie to be and they don’t want a “Star Wars” movie to be. You’re going to find very few fans out there whose lists line up.
And I also know the same way the original movies were personal for Lucas. Lucas never made a “Star Wars” movie by sitting down and thinking, “What do the fans want to see?” And I knew if I wrote wondering what the fans would want, as tempting as that is, it wouldn’t work, because people would still be shouting at me, “F— you, you ruined ‘Star Wars,'” and I would make a bad movie. And ultimately, that’s the one thing nobody wants.
And let me just add that 80-90% of the reaction I’ve gotten from Twitter has been really lovely. There’s been a lot of joy and love from fans. When I talk about the negative stuff, that’s not the full picture of the fans at all.
Rian Johnson is clearly a better person than I am because I’ve been angry as hell since this whole debacle kicked off as I’ve had to engage in far too many arguments about this. He is right though, that thanks to the way the internet provides thugs with a loudspeaker, the negativity has been amplified. For those of you who didn’t like the film for concrete reasons and engaged in lucid and reasonable debate as to why, I thank you. You are the real fans. These other idiots are just bitter thugs with sticks.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.
Last Updated: December 20, 2017