All this back and forth over “There’s no REAL backlash to ‘The Last Jedi,'” “Everybody LOVES it,, exit-polling PROVES IT. Just like Disney SAYS!” and “It’s the fanboys/alt-right, hate-bots that have gamed the user-reviews on websites” have been rather vexing to those of us who have chewed on the film, discussed it on comment forums, etc, and know there is a HUGE section of the fanbase that is indeed irked with what Disney, J.J. Abrams and Rian Johnson have done to it.
I see it partly as late blowback for “The Force Awakens.” There’s an ebb and flow to film series, and if fans felt burned, in retrospect (and upon further reflection on a movie that isn’t aging well), they sometimes vent upon the sequel that follows it.
But all this talk about illegitimate complaints on Rotten Tomatoes is laughable. Rotten Tomatoes is itself gamed. The days when it was filled with an elite corps of time-tested critics ended when most of America’s magazine and daily newspaper film critics were purged over the past decade and a half.
So some of what’s linked to on the site these days is some clerk or stringer or copy editor at a legacy media organization (NPR appears to be making interns critics, for instance) who has convinced an editor to “Let me take this free pass and review ‘Star Wars,'” etc. A vast sea of no-names and callow kids join established to make up RT’s critical mass. There’s simply not as much institutional memory and the lifetime of comparison points in criticism any more. And a lot of older critics clinging to their jobs by a thread turn into cheerleaders for whatever piffle is popular with the public right this second.
Metacritic’s aggregate critics’ score is a little lower, but again, a changing of the guard is partly responsible for that.
I have seen Youtube videos of would-be Alex Jones types blaming the backlash on “SJW” decisions in the plotting and casting. “Social Justice Warrior,” aka the Political Correctness Police. I don’t buy into that (One gets the feeling they’d much rather be typing JEW instead SJW), but the Abrams-Johnson Skywalker saga has a wimpiness (Let Leia Go! She’s not going to survive that!) and a feminization of the story’s drama (not solely casting, softening the “WARS” half of “Star Wars”) that is taking the teeth right out of it.
I knew there’d be plenty of love for it when it opened, and figured I’d be an outlier among America’s critics. But I’m not alone, and acting as if “This backlash never happened” is denying a voice to a lot of fans I am hearing from. And it’s a lie.
The damned movie is losing audience, hand over fist, in its second weekend — 77% down, Friday to Friday, 67% weekend to weekend). Is that made up, too?
What do those who insist “There’s no real backlash” do when Mark Hamill disowns the film’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker? Mark’s Luke learned from the ever-patient Obi Wan and even MORE patient Yoda, and yet in “Last Jedi” tried to off Han Solo’s son on a hunch, flicks non-existent debris off his shoulder like some Ice Cube sidekick in “Ride Along,” and generally seems reluctant to pass along the sacred training that Obi Wan couldn’t wait to pass to him, a Luke and Mark out of character and out of his depth in a movie series he knows like the back of his hand because of Rian Johnson’s facile take on this universe?
“Jake Skywalker” is how Hamill refers to this guy, “He’s not MY Luke Skywalker.”
My complaints about the film had to do with a whole variety of things — casting, for starters — and not Luke’s “transformation.” The original video has been yanked. The Long Arm of the Mouse?
Maybe the Alt-right put him up to it. Or maybe mainstream organizations need to seriously consider the lightweights and fraidy-cats they’re putting their institutional weight behind when they don’t have the critical facilities to know what’s good and what’s all surface sheen, tone-deaf dialogue and satisfying but limiting PC casting/story decisions. Maybe what Rottentomatoes REALLY needs to do is stop assigning “top critic” status to institutions, and label top critics that instead.