Within the last six months two of the most anticipated movies of all time, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Avengers: Infinity War, have both divided and united fans. December 2017 had Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the penultimate episode in the generation-spanning Skywalker saga, and Avengers: Infinity War, the penultimate outing of the MCU's central crossover team. Both came with years and years of yearning and excitement, fans all around the world coming together for these global cinematic events. And for one camp, expectations were met and exceeded, while the other was torn right down the middle as a fandom collapsed in on itself in what is one of the more divisive high-profile releases in recent memory, outside of Batman v Superman.
Indeed, Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios' major tentpoles have both endured very different varieties of reaction. Infinity War has been a smash hit attracting re-watch after re-watch as its box office slowly climbs towards that $2 billion mark, while The Last Jedi, which was also a critical and financial hit, drew heated debate in the fan community at every juncture. And all of this comes despite sharing a lot of ground in terms of composition, expectation and build-up, making their incredible contrast a fascinating insight into the ways challenging your audience can go oh-so-right and oh-so-wrong.
- This Page: The Reactions to Star Wars 8 And Avengers 3 Couldn't Be More Different
- Page 2: Were Infinity War And Last Jedi Really Doing The Same Thing?
The Reactions to Star Wars 8 And Avengers 3 Couldn't Be More Different
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Avengers: Infinity War has had the dream opening and is currently enjoying a best-case-scenario tenure in theaters. First scoring a record-shattering opening weekend at $630 million, the box office receipts just keep on rolling for the Marvel blockbuster. Right now, its returns stand at $1.6 billion, and that's still growing, the magic $2 billion looking very likely, even if only by the end of its run.
As you might imagine, this means the movie has overwhelmingly pleased the majority of its intended audience. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe were on the edge of their seat waiting for this thing to arrive and thankfully it didn't disappoint. The focus on Thanos, the gut-punch ending, all the different strands of the universe finally coming together - everything works beyond expectation to form a film that seemed impossibly big he closer we got to it. Fan theories and speculation were rampant before the movie, and the effort to figure out what happens in Avengers 4 and what kind of send-off Marvel is going to give this cast hasn't slowed.
Such adulation is c. The big difference between fans and reviewers is the contention over stakes and the impermanence of Infinity War's ending. Anyone who follows the MCU intently knows a lot of what happens in Avengers 3 won't stick because there's confirmed sequels and contracts and all the rest of it, which reduces the impact a little. But insofar as a movie that plays to its audience incredibly well, nobody can fault what the movie accomplishes.
Episode VIII's response and returns tell a much different story. It'd be a stretch to say Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a worst-case-scenario for a similarly-regarded sequel-prequel, but the middling reception and venomous reaction from certain parts of the fandom aren't far off. There's no world where making a billion dollars is a disaster, but when you consider the over $2 billion The Force Awakens made and the $1.6 billion and climbing Avengers 3 has, Last Jedi's $1.3 billion all-in take definitely indicates something went amiss.
Fans are deeply divided on The Last Jedi. Some adored the film's thematic depth and emotionally complex narrative, others practically had an allergic reaction to every choice director Rian Johnson made, with a small island of in-betweeners. Episode VIII set the Star Wars fandom on fire, a blaze that continues to rage at every mention of the title or Johnson's name. Yet, The Last Jedi managed to fair genuinely better with critics. Where fans were outraged at The Last Jedi's perceived abuse of the legacy of Star Wars and what Abrams setup in The Force Awakens, critics approved of such swerves, valuing a blockbuster that felt like it had something to say about itself.
Looking at the two, a central contrast is in the way the sequels subvert expectation. Audiences enjoy being excited by the unexpected, but they don't like something that's too unexpected, especially within something they believe they understand every facet of. The Last Jedi felt like a willful rejection of fan theories, an unwritten law of the franchise that went too far from what fans saw as sacrosanct (and differed from the non-canon Legends stories), where Avengers 3 was a deviation, sure, but one that played within the rules. Nothing was so outlandish that it feels spiteful to anyone's investment in the series.
Infinity War is a celebration of its franchise's accomplishments, and The Last Jedi a deconstruction of its franchise's history. For the former, everyone felt invited to the party, hence seeing it so many times, and for the latter, many felt like the series had abandoned them and left them in the cold with the heroes they thought they knew.