The past week has given Star Wars fans more severe whiplash than an X-wing going from 1,050 kph to 0. Advance reviews praised The Last Jedi as the franchise's best since The Empire Strikes Back; its 93 percent Rotten Tomatoes "certified fresh" score had everybody in the galaxy hyped.
And then, as soon as the first midnight screenings finished, many fans began to revolt on social media, claiming that the series was ruined, while others defended the film's unexpected direction. Now writer/director Rian Johnson is speaking his mind about the controversy.
Note: heavy spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi follow.
Johnson and Lucasfilm made two decisions that especially divided the fanbase: revealing that Luke Skywalker almost killed an unconscious Ben Solo — accidentally pushing his nephew to become Kylo Ren — and refusing to address the countless theories about Rey and Snoke's true identities; Snoke's backstory remains untold, while Rey is a "nobody," not a Skywalker nor a Kenobi.
While Luke was tempted by the dark side in the original trilogy — so it's not impossible that he'd be tempted again — the latter criticism perhaps holds more water. J.J. Abrams teased big mysteries in The Force Awakens, and fans had waited years to discover the answers in The Last Jedi, a film that proudly subverts those very expectations.
Again, some fans appreciated the curveball, but another chunk of the fanbase views it a dirty trick, and Johnson has received the vast majority of their ire, from Change.org petitions to threatening tweets. So, how's he handling the outrage?
Here's what he told Business Insider when asked about the film's polarized reaction:
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.
Johnson makes some valid (and diplomatic) points — it's impossible to please everyone, and attempting to do so would please no one — but only time will tell whether upset fans will reevaluate his Episode VIII in the wake of J.J. Abrams's Episode IX, which could retcon the retcons to win everyone back. We may be debating for years who between them balanced the Force and who left it in darkness.
Are you still excited for the new trilogy after The Last Jedi, or do you have a bad feeling about this?
(Source: Business Insider)