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As far as movie franchises go, there are none quite as beloved as Star Wars. George Lucas' colorful world has entertained moviegoers for decades, with entire generations of film fans brought up on the beloved space opera. But because the property has such a personal meaning for fans, they can also take personal umbrage with certain narrative choices. Just look at how Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi was originally met by the fandom. And The Rise of Skywalker's Richard E. Grant is actually expecting backlash for the highly anticipated blockbuster.
There's a ton of pressure associated with The Rise of Skywalker. J.J. Abrams much not only complete the current trilogy, but wrap up the entire franchise as we know it. Fans have made their disapproval known for movies like The Last Jedi and Solo, which may be part of why Richard E. Grant is expecting backlash for Episode IX. As the Star Wars newcomer recently explained,
There's a saying that expectations are just premeditated resentments, and that can certainly apply to major properties like Star Wars or Game of Thrones. Because since these brands mean so much, it's almost impossible to meet every hope that the fandom has. And therefore some people will inevitably be mad.
Star Wars fans can currently re-watch the Skywalker Saga on Disney+. You can use this link for a free 7-day trial to the new streaming service.
Richard E. Grant's comments to io9 is a unique view into toxic fandom, and one that does seem to put things in perspective. Those moviegoers who take to social media to complain and throw insults at filmmakers feel so strongly and personally about Star Wars that they need to make their feelings known. And the disappointment is often related to fan theories and expectations.
Given the pressure and stakes of The Rise of Skywalker, it's going to be impossible to please all the fans. J.J. Abrams had to somehow find an appropriate ending to George Lucas' colorful franchise, and the characters that go back decades. No one knows what to expect, so there will be no doubt be plenty of fan theories that won't pan out, with Abrams providing his own plot twists instead.
The conversation around toxic fandom might be a new one, but Star Wars fans have been making their opinions known long before that modern term was coined. While the original trilogy was a cultural phenomenon, the prequels weren't quite as lucky. The backlash began back with Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, which threw adult fans off by being much more kid-friendly and childish than they expected.
When Episode I brought the Star Wars franchise back to theaters, one character quickly became enemy number one: Jar Jar Binks. The clown-like Gungan was a major character in The Phantom Menace, mostly a source for pratfalls and family humor. This, combined with the childlike innocence of Anakin Skywalker, wasn't what OG fans were expecting from Darth Vader's origin story. After all, he's the most iconic villain of the property.
The Phantom Menace wasn't the only prequel movie to get some hate, but it might have been the worst. As a result, Jar Jar Binks was all but written out of the trilogy, save for a few brief scenes. Actor Ahmed Best went through a serious depression as a result of the backlash, struggling with his mental health for a number of years. Natalie Portman had a hard time with the hate her movies got, despite having seemingly nailed the dream job for any young actress.
The prequels are still the occasional butt of jokes nowadays, they've become more celebrated as years went on. And when Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the sequel trilogy officially began. And with the new movies, came new criticisms of the massively successful franchise. For instance, The Force Awakens got some flack for too closely resembling A New Hope. But quite the opposite happened with The Last Jedi.
Rian Johnson was in the director's chair for The Rise of Skywalker, and crafted a movie unlike anything in the franchise, and perhaps the most divisive sequel to date. The director purposefully subverted fan expectations, and the countless theories that had brewed over the years. Rey's parents were seemingly revealed to be nobody, Snoke was unceremoniously killed off, and Luke was a jaded recluse. Plenty of debate sparked, and online trolling was so severe that actress Kelly Marie Tran left social media.
Reviews recently arrived for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and it looks like Episode IX will leave plenty of subjects for the fans to debate following its release. It probably wasn't easy to wrap up the entire story, and sticking the landing is going to be difficult for J.J. Abrams, despite his history with the franchise.
Fans will be able to judge for themselves shortly, and will no doubt make their feelings known on social media. That's already happening for those lucky enough to see early screeners, although obviously those conversations are spoiler-free. But once Thursday night opening showings happen, social media will be full of spoilers and hot takes about the galaxy far, far away.
All will be revealed when Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters on December 20th. In the meantime, check out our 2020 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.
Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.
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