‘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:
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.
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.
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!
If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to MovieBabble via email to stay up to date on the latest content.
Join MovieBabble on Patreon so that new content will always be possible.
What movie topic should I discuss next? Whether it be old or new, the choice is up to you!