I just saw The Last Jedi for a second time. I still don’t know what to make of it. It’s fine, I guess, sort of. It’s as least more OK than could be expected given that it’s the second chapter of a story started by Force Awakens. Nothing’s really changed since I last wrote about it, though. The thing that I’ve been trying to understand is the general reaction to the movie.
The critics like it, a lot. It’s at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, just like Force Awakens. The audiences, though, are only lukewarm about it. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an audience score of just 55% while Force Awakens was at a robust 88%. I can’t even imagine how someone could have liked Force Awakens, but disliked The Last Jedi.
The general reasoning seems to be that the new movie so radically changes the characters and ideas that we love that it doesn’t deserve a place in the Star Wars canon. That’s just plain weird. It was Force Awakens that crapped all over the originals. That’s the movie that turned Luke Skywalker from the galaxy’s greatest hero into a whiney coward, not The Last Jedi. (It is too bad that The Last Jedi chose to double down on Luke’s change.) Force Awakens is the movie that erased all of Han Solo’s character arc from the originals. The Last Jedi is just following what Force Awakens set up. How can audiences be blaming the second movie for what the first movie did? (I found this article pretty funny. It’s praising The Last Jedi for being so daring and making radical changes to the Star Wars universe. I didn’t pick up on that at all.)
One definite complaint I have about The Last Jedi is that it is way too paint-by-numbers. There isn’t a single surprise in the movie. It felt like Rian Johnson was trapped by what JJ Abrams had done. I think that’s ultimately why I’m so ambivalent about the movie. Maybe I’m being too generous, but I think Rian Johnson is a competent filmmaker whose hands were tied by the utter incompetence of JJ Abrams. He tried to make some sense out of nonsense. He failed, but at least he tried. I don’t like the movie, but at least I admire the effort.