When Luke Skywalker first emerged from his desert abode on the arid planet of Tatooine to face the two-sunned horizon, millions of people were hooked on the Star Wars brand, on the epic sci-fi saga it promised to be since the first movie came out in 1977. Over the decades, fans of the series have become deeply invested in Star Wars characters and their legacies.
About 40 years after the first movie, Star Wars returns to the big screens with Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Not only did it bring everyone’s favorite characters back, but the J. J. Abrams directed film received much critical acclaim, with a rating of 93% on Rotten Tomatoes.
However, with the latest film in the space saga of the Skywalker family, released on Dec. 15 of last year, there is a clear and almost startling discrepancy in its reception among viewers.
When it comes to critics, The Last Jedi has received positive reviews across the board with a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Christopher Orr from The Atlantic called The Last Jedi “a fine film and a highly promising addition to the Star Wars canon.” On the Roger Ebert website, Matt Zoller Seitz claimed that the movie is “everything a fan could want from a ‘Star Wars’ film and then some.” But based on the overall reception of the movie, one has to ask if whether or not Seitz claim is true.
On Rotten Tomatoes, The Last Jedi received a 50% audience score. In the “User Reviews” for the movie on the IMDb site, some of the adjectives used to describe the movie from the audience range from “failure” and “pointless,” to “total disaster” and “disgrace.”
One of the biggest reasons might have something to do with Luke Skywalker’s character arc in the movie.
Initially, Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke in the movies, was not very fond of his character’s portrayal in the latest movie; “He’s not my Luke Skywalker,” he once said. He even told Vanity Fair that after reading the script, he “fundamentally disagree[d] with every choice” made by the director of The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson, when it came to the beloved character of Luke Skywalker. Later, Hamill would apologize for his statements and lend his support to realizing Johnson’s “vision” of the character Luke and the rest of the Star Wars saga.
And yet, the rift continues to widen, and fans continue to publicly voice their concerns in outlets like IMDb and YouTube. In response to the widening chasm between critics and audience reception, Johnson said in a tweet that : “The goal is never to divide or make people upset, but I do think the conversations that are happening were going to have to happen at some point if [Star Wars] is going to grow, move forward and stay vital.”
With the next Star Wars film planned for December of 2019, Abrams, who is set to direct again, must find a way to balance the Force between the increasing divide among the critics and audience on the direction the beloved Star Wars series is taking with its story and characters.