Critics and (Most) Audiences Still Love the Star Wars Brand
When it comes to critical reception, Star Wars is about as good as it has ever been. Every movie has seen great reviews from critics, with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi landing Metacritic scores of 81 and 85 respectively, and the spinoffs also did well, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Solo: A Star Wars Story landing Metacritic scores of 65 and 62 respectively. In fact, between the four new movies, Metacritic's curated pool of reviews only includes four total outright negatives (one for Solo and three for Rogue One), with most detractors logging mixed reviews as opposed to outright bad ones.
There's obviously more negative reviews out there, but this is pretty consistent with any other review aggregator. Critics like the new Star Wars movies. And audiences do, too. There's been a fair amount of attention to audience reviews, particularly on Rotten Tomatoes, but with loose controls over submissions and blatant campaigns to sink the score, it's hard to take those at face value, especially when much more rigid forms of audience evaluation, like Cinemascore, ranks the movies very highly with audiences.
This is where Solo comes into question again, coming in as the lowest reviewed Star Wars movie in the Disney era, but it's important to note that Solo still maintains a positive review score. It may be a less enthusiastically positive score than some of the previous movies, but it's still well received by both critics and fans, with most of the negative buzz relating to its box office numbers, which we addressed above.
The Fan Divide is Small and Temporary
While evaluating the critical and audience reception, it's important to also note the fan divide. A portion of Star Wars fandom has been dissatisfied with the direction the Star Wars franchise has taken under Disney, leading boycotts and negative audience review campaigns, and while there's been a marginal effect on the audience review scores, the biggest impact has been the divisive discussion surrounding the new movies.
This is not to say the new movies are beyond criticism, as there are plenty of excellent discussions happening breaking down the themes and creative decisions of the Disney Star Wars movies, particularly The Last Jedi, but there's also a segment of fandom that was against the new generation of Star Wars before the movies even came out, specifically because of the decision to denote the old Star Wars Expanded Universe content - which George Lucas never considered canon in the first place - as non-canon "Legends."
The bright side is that these particular issues will likely fade eventually. Star Wars fandom has always been divisive, but many of the old issues dividing fandom like the Ewoks, the special editions, or the prequels have started to fade, only to be replaced by newer arguments.
The saving grace for this situation will hopefully be the newfound diversity in Star Wars storytelling. Divisive Star Wars movies in the past, like the prequels, were always a take it or leave it proposition. Don't like a Star Wars movie? Too bad! That's all the Star Wars you're getting! Now, we have the sequel trilogy pushing the story forward with new characters, but we also have Solo, packed full of past Star Wars lore fans know and love.
Off the big screen, there's animated shows, comics, and books for varying maturities, and Jon Favreau's live-action series will bring even more diversity on that front. There's more than enough Star Wars to go around, and fans aren't required to embrace it all. They merely need to find the stories and characters that resonate with them the most from Lucasfilm's numerous offerings.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019