Writer-director Kevin Smith says huge expectations for Star Wars: The Last Jedi played into the backlash the film is getting from fans. While it's not doing near the business of its predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, writer-director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi is still a box office blockbuster worldwide, with $595.5 million in ticket sales domestically and $673.4 million overseas for a staggering global cume of $1.268 billion to date.
Adding to the film's success is the love the film has received from critics, as it's certified "fresh" by review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes with a 90 percent approval rating. The big divide about the film, however, falls between fans, who have decidedly different opinions about the film, stemming largely from Johnson's creative decisions regarding key characters. Some fans were so upset, in fact, that a petition was started just days after the film's December 15 release to cut the eighth episode in the Skywalker saga from the Star Wars film canon.
Fans of all walks are weighing in about the backlash over The Last Jedi, including fan-favorite filmmaker/fellow fanboy Smith, who is taking a different tact than other Star Wars fans against the film. On his latest Fatman on Batman podcast (via Heroic Hollywood), Smith gave his opinion on the negative fan reaction to the film, saying, “Some people, it hit them the wrong way in a big way. I’ve seen, it’s not just people going like, ‘Oh, I didn’t like it,’ when they don’t like it. It’s vitriolic, as if somebody f-cked up their childhood.”
Smith thinks part of the intense negative reaction to the film comes from the sort of expectations set up by the promotional material of the film, which seemed to lay a path for Luke Skywalker that was akin to Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) in the first Star Wars movie from 1977. He says:
“I think at the end of the day, audience expectation plays into [the backlash]. Like when, you know, you’re like, ‘Alright the next movie is going to be all about Luke and I’ve seen Luke in the trailer and I know exactly who Luke Skywalker is and now he looks like Obi-Wan so he’s going to be like this version of Obi-Wan,’ and then they give you a version of Luke that even Mark Hamill reportedly was like ‘I don’t know, is this really supposed to be Luke Skywalker? He’s not the one I remember.'”
While it's not bound to change any fans' minds regarding how they feel about The Last Jedi, hopefully the Star Wars faithful will recognize Smith's rationalization as to why the film was received the way it was by fans. He's clearly assessing the situation from a filmmaker's point-of-view, where he's been in a position of criticism before, just like Johnson is now.
If there's any silver lining, fans should know the likes of Smith and Johnson truly take the criticisms of their films to heart, effectively because they're a reflection of the fan base. In the end, fans should at least be happy that Johnson is addressing fans' concerns instead of ignoring them, and effectively letting them know that they have a voice in the Star Wars universe whether they agree with his decisions of not.
Source: Fatman on Batman podcast (via Heroic Hollywood)
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019