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Some spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you haven't seen the film yet, you may want to pivot to one of our other stories.
It's been less than a week since Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived in theaters, and the generations of fans have hotly debated the new sequel's contents. The reaction has been one of the most divisive in Star Wars history, as early moviegoers seem to be split in regards to whether or not they actually liked Episode VIII. While some praised director Rian Johnson's edgy and original take on the franchise, some fans took umbrage with his choices and said the film didn't feel like a Star Wars movie at all. Johnson seems to be cognizant of this dichotomy, and recently spoke to the naysayers out there.
Having been a Star Wars fan my whole life, and having spent most of my life on the other side of the curb and in that fandom, it softens the blow a little bit. 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.
It looks like Rian Johnson understands just how much the Star Wars franchise means to people, and therefore expected strong opposition to the contents of The Last Jedi. He seems not take it too personally, as there are entire generations of fans who have their own opinions on the beloved space opera. And considering what a dark turn he was taking the formerly heroic and hopeful Luke Skywalker, Twitter trolling seems par for the course.
And truly, The Last Jedi did take a ton of risks. The story was capsulated over the course of just a few days, and featured existential crises coming from the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, Finn, and Luke. The heroic Resistance was shown to be quite dysfunctional, and infighting with Poe Dameron and Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo put the group's future in jeopardy. Overall, Johnson challenged what most Star Wars fans expected, which would explain some of the backlash the film has received.
In the same conversation with Business Insider, Rian Johnson also revealed that he wasn't crafting The Last Jedi around fan expectations. Instead, he was crafting a challenging story that was personally fulfilling.
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, 'Fuck 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.
It looks like Rian Johnson seems to have a good perspective of the entire situation, while also having the majority of the film's critical reception be overwhelming positive. Of course, this rating isn't the same as fan's reaction, which can sometimes differ from the folks who are formally reviewing The Last Jedi for publications. At the time of writing, the blockbuster has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but with 55% fan approval.
It should be interesting to see how it all ends with the untitled Episode IX. J.J Abrams will once again be helming the next blockbuster, and will have to navigate around the canon changes Rian Johnson made with The Last Jedi. Additionally, he'll have to change the narrative in order to work around Carrie Fisher's unexpected passing. Leia was meant to be a major presence in the next sequel, so some changes will have to be made for the trilogy to end.