Why is The Last Jedi (Allegedly) So Controversial?

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Right now, there’s a debate about whether Star Wars: The Last Jedi is controversial, and what that means. The Rotten Tomatoes audience score is low, but some alt-right trolls are taking credit for that. The movie isn’t making as much money as the Force Awakens, although part of that is that with a Star Wars film every year it’s not the event it used to be.

For the record, I loved the film, and am reasonably sure it’s the best since The Empire Strikes Back (and third best in the series overall) but I have noticed some pushback. This is the sense of the objections as far as I see.

Obviously, there will be spoilers.

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Some fans are disappointed that Luke Skywalker was killed off, after a generation of failure. The hero generations of moviegoers saw go from a farmboy to defeating the empire quit after some bad experiences. It’s realistic, and makes for good drama, but it’s disappointing, and I think many fans didn’t want to be disappointed in Luke Skywalker. They didn’t want him to be used for the lesson that heroes might let you down.

It’s a story about a diverse group of heroes (the top leaders of the Resistance are middle-aged women; the younger heroes are a white woman, a latino man, a black man, an asian woman, and a robot) which pisses off some white guys who see this as sjw pandering.

There’s a lot of demythologizing, and some people liked the myth. This is a film where the Han Solo approach of going it alone and ignoring orders fails. Poe’s initial efforts to destroy the Dreadnought lead to the deaths of many pilots. When Poe and Finn make a risky ploy to save the day, it makes things worse by exposing the resistance’s strategem. The charismatic rogue sells them out. On a slightly related point, younger minority men don’t seem to like how Finn (and Poe, presumably) screwed things up, and didn’t have major wins. There’s the combo of the demythologizing at the same time minority male actors are in a position to be the mythical heroes.

The movie goes in directions that may seem anticlimactic to people who were invested in a different outcome (Snoke is killed towards the end of the second act, Rei’s parents were nobodies.) These are dramatically satisfying moments that work in the context of the story, but this isn’t a rational desire.

A final factor is that the end of the film makes it harder to predict what’s coming next in the conclusion of the trilogy.  With the Empire Strikes Back, there were major beats that fans looked forward to seeing get resolved (The Emperor would have to be defeated, Luke would learn more about his family, Han would get rescued, There would be a rematch between Luke and Darth Vader.) The penultimate films in major sagas typically suggest many of the major beats of the finale, but that’s not happening here.

The ninth episode was meant to focus on Princess Leia, but Carrie Fisher passed away. So that leaves the resistance versus Supreme Leader Kylo Ren, which by itself doesn’t seem to be a complete movie. New elements will have to be introduced (just like Rose in this movie) and it can go in many different directions. The downside is that fans don’t yet know whether they’ll like what’s coming.

 

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at mistermets@gmail.com
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