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‘The Last Jedi’ and Properly Managing Expectations in Film

**Warning: The Last Jedi Spoiler Alert**

If you’ve come across Rotten Tomatoes recently, you’ll notice the following scores for The Last Jedi:

The Last Jedi

To increase the divide even more, the average rating for Rotten Tomatoes critics is at 8.2/10, which stands among the best of the year.  But, fans haven’t exactly been as kind, rating the film at 56% which is essentially a skipable movie from their point of view.  To put things in perspective, the highly polarizing film Prometheus has an audience score of 68%.  What exactly causes this divide between fans and critics?  And, better yet, what is the result of fan unrest?

What Do Critics Look for When They Review a Film?

Obviously, all certified critics have different key aspects that truly speak to them when reviewing a film.  But, he are some general points that apply to most film critics (including myself):

#1: Critics look at each film as a singular entity, looking at its merits alone and not necessarily as a part of a bigger picture.

Although a film in the MCU may deepen the lore and expand out the universe, legitimate critics don’t care if the movie itself doesn’t have a satisfying plot with solid character arcs that make sense with established traits in the first act of the film.  Movies are single entities and they certainly don’t fanboy over tiny elements.

#2: They appreciate full character arcs that have a cyclical nature to them.

Critics love cyclical writing which allows for characters to grow and understand their surroundings and change for the better if it works within the context of the story as it progresses.

#3: The action needs to mean more than just explosions for the sake of explosions (if applicable).

They say the best action tells a story within its choreography.  Some enjoy explosions for the sake of explosions, but the best action tells a story beneath the spectacle that taps into the movies’ themes and core concepts.

#4: Themes should be apparent without beating a dead horse.

Metaphors and representations are nice, but if they don’t have a point, they aren’t worth your time.  Also, whatever you do, don’t make those themes obvious.

#5: Take chances, be courageous!

Most critics see well over 100 films every year, meaning that generic films are quite frowned upon.  They enjoy movies that stick out and are unfraid to subvert tropes and expectations.

#6: Provide a tight plot that keeps moving.

Critics hate when movies have dead weight.  Each element of the story should progress the plot in some manner or seriously add to a character’s development.  This point means that major critics don’t care about moments of fan service without meaning.

#7: Production design and cinematography are massively important.

Visual elements of film can say even more than lines of dialogue, meaning that well-crafted visual storytelling really works.

#8: Great acting can cure a lot of problems.

This one is pretty self-explantory.

Does The Last Jedi Accomplish These Elements?

**AGAIN, SPOILER ALERT**

Naturally, this answer comes down to personal interpretation of a very dense film.  So, actual opinions will certainly vary.  After all, film is subjective in the end.

From the list above, #7 and #8 can generally be accepted.  Some elements in The Last Jedi are truly breathtaking, including the self-sacrifice at lightspeed which may go down as one of the best looking moments in Star Wars history.  The acting here is also very raw, providing very vulnerable moments that work very well, especially from Rey, Kylo Ren, and Luke.

The Last Jedi also has a very clear three act structure.  We see the beginnings of the plot as the First Order tracks down Resistance ships after an opening action sequence.  From there, the groups of characters split apart to complete side stories that weave back into the plot later down the road.  Ultimately, we see the climatic battle in Crait as the main characters learn from early events or face some adversity that ties into inner struggles.  Poe learns to become more strategic as a military leader.  Finn finally learns that the Resistance is where he belongs.  Rey and Kylo struggle with the balance between the dark and the light, but they ultimately choose their separate paths.  Luke battles his past demons to help those that he cares for, making the ultimate sacrifice in the process.

Continued…

The ultimate idea in The Last Jedi is finding one’s destiny and place in the universe, a discussion that occurs both internally and externally with each major character.

From my count, those remarks take care of #2, #3, #4, and #5.  As for #6, while some elements don’t always add to the story (that Canto Bight sequence may be the greatest sinner of them all), they all come together to serve the story in some manner, even if it might not have been the most efficient way of doing things.  You can certainly feel differently, but realize that opinions other than yours are rooted in some fact.

Great, So What Exactly is the Problem?

The biggest issue may come from point #1.

Speculation is Fun, But Don’t Take It Too Far

The Force Awakens raised a ton of questions about the future of Star Wars lore.  Who are Rey’s parents?  Who is Snoke?  What is Leia’s connection to the force?  Since 2015, fan theories have gone wild with unbelievably convoluted answers to these questions and more.  Some of the more tame answers became so ingrained into pop culture that they became the reality before The Last Jedi ever hit theaters.

That’s not to say that theories aren’t good.  After all, I created two separate speculation articles for The Last Jedi alone.  Speculation is a lot of fun and, in some ways, deepens the love for beloved properties.  However, when it becomes the expectation is when fans get into trouble.  Having Rey become the offspring of drunks while Snoke dies without any character explanation betrays those elaborate theories, but it doesn’t necessarily betray the film.  Sometimes, fans get something entirely different from their expectations and don’t know what to do with themselves when it occurs.  Differences can lead to overly negative criticisms that may not necessarily be warranted.  That difference in the Rotten Tomatoes scores could stem from this issue.

Some of the answers that Rian Johnson supplys to the characters are vastly different from the building blocks that J.J. Abrams put in place.  In my personal opinion, some work while others do not.  But, there should be some level of appreciation for changes in a franchise that many have accused of being safe in the past.

Moreover, this discussion is not meant to sway people, but rather bring some rational discussion to the conversation.  Speculation can cause downright cruel exchanges between fans, especially once films hit theaters.

You Can Still Dislike the Movie!

But, this article is NOT meant to belittle those that genuinely dislike The Last Jedi.  All art is subjective.  Hell, I didn’t love the film either.  But, having legitimate criticism of film is crucial in a time where any thought is 280 characters away.  Something can earn the moniker of “okay,” not everything is the worst or the best.

I implore you to keep your thoughts about the film.  However, just make sure you can explain your appreciation level with reasoning based in fact rather than hopes and expectations.

Critics Aren’t Infallible Either!

This article is also not meant to show critics in some glorious light of incredible intelligence.  We’re all human.  We all gravitate towards different ideas, becoming blinded by predispositions and internal struggles.  Listen to critics, but don’t take their word as completely true or false.  After all, it comes down to opinion.

In Conclusion…

That Rotten Tomatoes score difference boils down to differences in film analysis.  Not everyone looks at those eight concepts layed out above the same way, if at all.  People look for different elements in film and can become very disappointed when that belief isn’t satiated.  In the end, my advice boils down to one word: relax.

Take a deep breath, think critically about what you saw.  No one’s telling you love or hate The Last Jedi (or at least they shouldn’t).  More importantly, appreciate differences in opinion, don’t bash them.  That major difference in the scores most certainly comes from unnecessary venom towards critics and Star Wars fanatics as well as personal expectations.  There’s way too much harmful rhetoric in the discussion of subjective art these days.  Many times, it spurs others to make rash decisions to make their thoughts equally heard.

Movies are fun.  Don’t take the joy out of them.


Thanks for reading!  What are your thoughts on The Last Jedi and its reception?  Comment down below!

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Nick Kush

A current young professional, Nick founded MovieBabble in October of 2016 in order to provide insightful film analysis that is meant to educate and entertain. Nick is also a member of the Internet Film Critics Society. You can follow Nick at the official MovieBabble Twitter account @MovieBabble_

26 Responses

  1. I liked the film overall. I didn’t like Poe and Finn’s side stories, though. They were long and pointless and felt like they were included just to give Poe and Finn something to do. I was a bit puzzled why Poe wasn’t arrested or detained or something after he tried to start a mutiny. It was also strange seeing Finn randomly get a new love interest when TFA implied several times he was interested in Rey. I get him moving on if it doesn’t work out, but in this case, he was in the middle of trying to go to Rey when he met this girl. We didn’t get closure on his feelings for Rey. It makes him seem wishy-washy. Plus, his new love interest made silly, questionable choices that ultimately made her unlikable, at least to me. All in all, it was obvious the writer(s) were gunning for the Luke, Rey, and Kylo Ren stuff and only included the other stuff just so Finn and Poe would have an excuse for being there. The writing could’ve been much less messy.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think a lot of that goes to Lucasfilm not having a plan for the franchise at the onset. After all, JJ Abrams is pitching the script for Episode 9 as we speak!

  2. When I found out that The Last Jedi was getting hatred from the general public despite the fact that the critics have mainly enjoyed it, I was puzzled. So, I went to see it. In all honesty, there were a few moments where I feared that it was leaning towards an area where I thought the source of the hatred was. By the time it was done, I found no reason to despise it. As the days went by and I saw a few “First Look” reviews from online personalities that I like (Crimson Rogue, Cinemassacre, AT4W, etc.), I may have discovered the reason for all of the hatred that it’s getting: the reveal that Rei’s parents were actually deadbeats who sold her into slavery on Jaaku. I guess those fans had expected her to be familiarly-related to Luke or Han and Leia, but were so outraged that an actual online petition was created to make this film non-canon. Wow, because heaven-forbid that we should ever take risks and just keep regurgitating the same story points that we’ve become far too familiar with. This actually makes me like her even more, since she came from nowhere to rise up and become an honorable and valiant heroine that anyone of any gender can appreciate. To me, the risks that The Last Jedi took were absolutely worth it. If anyone generally disliked it, I’d be willing to accept it if they offered their valid reasons. In my mind, there’s no reason to drop a nuclear hate bomb on this film.

    • Nick Kush says:

      We’re in an age now where every big property gets endlessly speculated about for years before pre-production even starts. Rian Johnson literally went in the exact opposite direction of all speculation, almost to the point or trolling the audience. I can’t wrap my brain around being angered with the choices he made, but I could see anger in the manner in which he did it

      • Maybe it’s just me, but I’m the kind of guy who wishes to be generally surprised with what unfolds in the final product.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Me too! I really enjoyed how TLJ actively tried to subvert ideas. After all, forgetting the past was one of the major thematic elements of the story.

      • Or maybe to rephrase that: As much as we should remember the past (in order to not be doomed to repeat it), we can’t cling onto it (especially since what worked for the Jedis then doesn’t work now) We can only move forward with what we know. Still a good lesson given to us from this piece.

      • Nick Kush says:

        Agreed!

  3. kezijin says:

    I get why some people are upset, it’s the most “different” and least safe movie they could have made and they should be applauded for it.
    It would have been easy to do another Empire, it would have been good, yet unforgivable at the same time. This took balls.
    Though, with JJ doing episode IV, I’m curious why so many of his plot points were forgotten about or wrapped up somewhat prematurely. I wonder what input he had and what he really thinks of this film.
    For all its flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Are there things I didn’t like? Sure. Are there things I would have done differently? Of course. But I still really liked it and I’d say the good outweighs the bad.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I think this movie shows that Lucasfilm just didn’t have a greater plan for the new trilogy so when they turned the keys over to Rian Johnson he just did whatever he wanted to the story instead of following some sort of narrative guideline

  4. I seem to be the only person I know that has absolutely zero interest in seeing “The Last Jedi.” Though I saw and really liked the first three Star Wars films that came out between 1977-1983, I’ve not had the slightest bit of interest in seeing any of the later films. Never saw any of the Star Trek films either.

    Besides the original three Star Wars films, I have enjoyed other films about space exploration, including “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Alien,” “The Martian” and even the critically-maligned “Dune.” Just don’t care to follow the Star Wars franchise any longer, but I realize it’s probably my loss…

  5. Joseph Moore says:

    Your analysis of how critics view a film raises an interesting question: why should a casual movie goer care what critics think? About half the points you say critics care about are irrelevant or antithetical to what a viewer wants out of movies.

    Me? I don’t want to be bored or browbeaten. If it’s film X in a series, it does in fact matter if it builds on what came before and sets up any twists so that they make sense in the big picture. If I notice the cinematography or pacing or set design or makeup or whatever technical aspect very much, that’s a minus even if I like it – because that means I’m not sucked into the story.

    I’ve liked films both the reviewers and viewers hated, and hated movies both loved. But if I were taking recommendations, I’d take them from the casual viewers, on the premise that at least they bought a ticket to be entertained. So I’ll take a pass on Last Jedi.

    • Nick Kush says:

      And I totally see where you’re coming from there. I mentioned in the piece that people may not look at those bits, if at all, and that’s perfectly fine! I brought those up to merely try to explain why there’s such a big difference between the critics and audience scores.

      Reading critics works a lot for different people. If you align with someone that shares similar sentiments, then you’ll be able to get a better gauge as to whether or not you liked a movie. But, you do your own thing, and if it works for you, keep on doing it!

  6. I have somewhat mixed feelings about The Last Jedi. There were many parts I thoroughly enjoyed (Rey’s Jedi training, seeing Leia use the force, Holdon’s light speed jump through the First Order vessel, Luke Skywalker emerging from the red mist and brushing dust off his cape), and others I found a bit… meh, like the code breaker plot line. Some of the plot threads from TFA weren’t taken up on at all, and I felt they revealed (and killed off) Snoke too quickly without us understanding his origins or anything else.

    If this were just a generic science fiction movie, I would have really liked it, but it just felt a bit disjointed when compared to its predecessor. Not a bad movie, but falling somewhat below my expectations – and maybe that says a lot more about me than the movie itself.

    Still think they missed the obvious joke of having a Porg family try to nest in Chewbacca – perhaps the director’s cut will reveal all 😉

  7. kat c. says:

    Great article – definitely didn’t know what to do with myself when Snoke got offed with no explanation. Felt cheated. But the balls it took for Rian Johnson to go a completely different direction was both nauseating and exciting. As a long time Star Wars fans who loved the extended universe (Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy tops this new trilogy imo) prior to it being Disney-fied, its a long road until I start genuinely loving the movie (but I do love the actors jesus if they aren’t amazing). Maybe when the Order of Ren gets properly introduced and they stop deus ex machina-fying some characters I’ll get serious.

    • Nick Kush says:

      I certainly think that’s a fair criticism! In the end, this trilogy was never about the big bads or where characters came from, it’s about the future of the force and Rey and Kyla’s place in it all. But, there are certainly issues with TLJ that deserve criticism. It’s all about being level headed, which you certainly seem to be accomplishing!

  8. raistlin0903 says:

    I saw it today, and honestly I am at a complete loss for words. I am devastated. This movie killed my beloved franchise. I feel so cheated by everything. As a huge fan of Star Wars for so many years, I really ended up being so disappointed by this film. I really am incredibly sad and angry at the same time. The review that I need to write for this, is certainly one that I feel even more sad about. As it will be about something that really means so much to me, and that I wished had been so much better than this ?

    • Nick Kush says:

      I would urge you to collect yourself and think about it more! It’s a very different film that takes in a new direction. I’m not saying it’s a great film, but something different shouldn’t become discarded for nothing!

      • raistlin0903 says:

        I have been thinking about it the entire day, and I am really sorry but for me as a fan for years it has destroyed everything that I loved about Star Wars in the first place. I did not hate everything, there were certainly some things in it that I enjoyed, but no really sorry, but this for me was the biggest disappointment of the entire year. I really am terribly sorry ?

      • Nick Kush says:

        Well you’re certainly entitled to your opinion!

    • After reading that article and then coming to your comment. I genuinely want to know what about that movie made you so devastated.? If you are able to put it into words please let me know where I can read it. I really want to know what the expectation was for this film. I saw it and enjoyed it for what it was and Star Wars was a huge part of my growing up but I left feeling entertained and happy and was surprised to see the backlash.
      The only thing I can come up with is the love for the previous extended universe and people not being able to see those moments on film and that this direction for the beloved characters is not “correct” based the legacy canon.
      This seemed like a good place to actual get enlightened on this topic as post to some of the other message boards I had seen.

      • Nick Kush says:

        I agree with you! I really appreciated a different look into Star Wars than previous iterations. I was okay to see certain storylines become somewhat inconsequential because the story is ultimately about Rey and Kylo and less about pasts and other evil forces. I’m certainly okay with people disliking it, after all, art is subjective. But, it has left me a little curious

      • raistlin0903 says:

        I’m currently writing my review for it, and it is also the first review in the history of my blog that will contain spoilers and has turned into a bit of a rant. Don’t get me wrong, I always respect everyone’s opinion. It was said that before this movie would be released that it would divide the Star Wars community. And looking at the reactions the movie is getting that has certainly happened. There are so many plotholes, bad decisions on the part of the director, as well as ways in which it dealt with certain characters that I just felt cheated by this movie. I loved the Force Awakens, I love pretty much everything else that has ever been released for Star Wars, but this movie just did not work for me. I really am sorry. And I am definitely not the only one who feels like this. One look over on IMDB and you can see that a lot of people feel cheated as well.
        But as I said, I’m glad that there are also people that have enjoyed it. With any movie, whatever it is, there were always be different opinions. And that I guess is what makes movies so much fun: everyone experiences them in a different way. And that’s something that I have always respected ? Thanks for your comment ?

  9. Nick Kush says:

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