Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has addressed the backlash towards his film, saying most of the feedback he's received from fans is very positive. In the wake of Episode VIII's premiere, the latest chapter of the Skywalker saga has generated a wide range of opinions, becoming more divisive amongst viewers than the maligned prequels. Most of the issues seem to stem from the fact that The Last Jedi, unlike The Force Awakens or even Rogue One, rewrites the rules of what a Star Wars movie can be, taking numerous risks to set the stage for an exciting future.
While many people are enthused by what Johnson did with the material (read our review), a vocal section of the fan base has expressed their displeasure, feeling the filmmaker went a bit too far in a few places with his risks. This has led to The Last Jedi morphing into the inverse of Batman V Superman (at least on Rotten Tomatoes) in terms of the critic/audience divide. No doubt, those involved with the film are well aware of how polarizing it is, but Johnson has, for the most part, stayed in the good graces of viewers.
In an interview with Business Insider, Johnson discussed the fan reaction, relating it to his own experience of being an admirer of the galaxy far, far away:
"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."
The Last Jedi is something of an anomaly in tentpole filmmaking, subverting expectations and fan theories to tell its own story. It's apparent not everyone was thrilled by Johnson's perceived nonchalantness in resolving (or in some cases, discarding) plot points established in Episode VII, but based on the critical response and box office numbers, it's clear he was at least partially successful in his goals. Many have said The Last Jedi is a movie that requires repeat viewings and further marination due to its rich themes and intimate, character-driven plot. It will be interesting to see how the consensus evolves over time, especially when it hits Blu-ray. After all, The Empire Strikes Back was divisive when it was first released in 1980, but is now considered the franchise's best entry after nearly 40 years.
Johnson understands that criticism is part of his job description, but it's nice to see that "80-90%" of the response has been positive. He dedicated a lot of time and effort into making The Last Jedi the best film he possibly could, and he was rewarded with a $220 million opening weekend and widespread acclaim. This is nothing new for Star Wars, as just about every film released since the heyday of the original trilogy has received a similar reaction. Odds are, it'll be more of the same with Solo: A Star Wars Story and Episode IX, but as long Kathleen Kennedy and crew are happy with the way things are going, Star Wars will be in good shape.
Source: Business Insider
- Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: Episode IX (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019