Just before 2017 came to close, the latest entry to the Star Wars series made the second-biggest box office premiere in U.S. history, bringing in $220 million during the weekend of Dec. 14-17. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” not only drew an impressive audience, but was also very well received by critics, scoring a 90 percent rating on the review site Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite all of this seemingly positive response, the movie has been met with some criticism from the only thing bigger than the franchise itself: the Star Wars fanbase.
As far as audiences are concerned, there is an apparent divide in overall satisfaction with the movie, and some of the reason comes from the way plot details unfolded after being set up by the film’s predecessor. Episode VIII follows the events of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” directed by J.J. Abrams after Disney’s acquisition of the franchise. The 2015 premiere of “The Force Awakens” is the only movie with a bigger opening box-office weekend in the U.S. than “The Last Jedi,” and its success has often been attributed to the amount of nostalgia stitched into it, with several thematic callbacks to “A New Hope,” the 1977 original.
Many movie series can suffer from having a bad sequel, and that challenge is being observed as fans criticize “The Last Jedi.” With new director Rian Johnson stepping in for the middle entry of this new trilogy, the immediate challenge comes from not only meeting the same level of reminiscence to past Star Wars movies but also making sure the story is being told in a fresh and exciting way that generates momentum prior to the inevitable conclusion in Episode IX.
Aside from the more particular complaints on the current state of the Star Wars universe, there has been a mixed reaction from fans regarding Luke Skywalker’s role in “The Last Jedi.” As many of the trailers and even the title of the movie suggest, it was presumed that Episode VIII would showcase jedi master Skywalker passing on his wisdom and guidance to Rey. While this bond isn’t completely absent from the movie it is cut short, as far as screen time.
The disagreement over Skywalker was even voiced by Mark Hamill himself, the actor who has played Skywalker throughout the series. Hamill noted that he was shocked to hear that Johnson make his character, normally so full of optimism and hope, become so distant from his past beliefs. Yet, shortly after the release of the film, Hamill tweeted an apology for publicly expressing his doubts about the direction of Skywalker and praised Johnson for making a great movie.
With all of the creative risks that were taken in this installment, it is clear that the movie constantly demonstrates a theme of leaving the past behind. This serves an even deeper purpose as avid Star Wars fans make new speculation while awaiting the release of Episode IX, set for December 2019.
The directing will be handed back to Abrams and perhaps this last film of the newest trilogy will give us a better understanding of what moving into an entirely new generation of Star Wars means for both the characters on screen as well as the expectant fans around the world.