From the moment Empire Strikes Back hit movie theater screens in 1980, the “war” part of Star Wars ends up fought amongst its fans. On one hand, this is just a sign of the passion people have for this children’s fantasy about space wizards. On the other, it’s a recipe for toxicity and entitlement that make Kylo Ren look like a puppy-cuddling sweetheart. Yet, as the first reactions to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trickle in through social media, it promises to be perhaps the most contentious installment of the franchise. Again, this is to be expected. When Return of the Jedi debuted (my favorite of all of them), people disliked it because of Luke’s plan to save Han, the Ewoks, or a million other tiny reasons. Still, as this is sold as the definitive end to the Skywalker saga, contentious is probably not what the filmmakers hoped for.
Don’t worry, even though spoilers (including images from the end of the film) have hit the internet, we will keep this piece spoiler-free. Also, because the gods are cruel, we won’t be seeing the film until the end of the week. Yet, reviews will hit the internet tomorrow morning. Nonetheless, the best way to experience this movie (any movie, really) is (as Darth Vader says) with your own eyes. When talking about the backlash to The Last Jedi, it’s important that one is honest in with their criticism. “I didn’t like it” is a perfectly valid, if subjective, criticism. Yet, some of those who’ve seen the film say that this “undoes” the previous films and/or insults Rian Johnson and his middle chapter of the saga.
The Critics’ Response Versus the Fan Response
Image via Lucasfilm
What makes the first reactions for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker notable is that they are comprised of film critics and superfans. For the previous two saga films, those invited to the premiere of the films often had nothing but positive things to say. While the angry haters amongst the so-called Fandom Menace will unfailingly refer to these folks as “shills,” that’s not what they are. They are people who love Star Wars and are treated to a star-studded experience with cosplayers, cheering, and beloved stars like Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and other original trilogy legends. This experience, naturally, colors their thoughts of the film. Watching a movie with cheering, exuberant fans for the first time is a much different experience than watching it alone on your laptop. So, the surprising thing is that a number of these premiere attendees have had vaguely negative things to say about it.
There are plenty of those who loved the film. Some called it “epic” and “legendary” and (surprisingly) “quiet and human.” Yet, others have said they have “mixed feelings” and “rude to Rian Johnson.” A box office analyst for Forbes even went so far as to flatly say “it’s a bad movie.” That’s what makes the first reactions to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker so interesting. Fans argue about Star Wars movies. It’s what they do. Yet, the critics and premiere attendees usually agree. While the predominant reactions are positive, the openly negative ones are somewhat rare for the critics and super-fan class. However, this may not be as foreboding for the legacy of this latest trilogy as it might seem.
Why the First Reactions to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Don’t Matter as Much As You Might Think
Image via screengrab
Conventional wisdom suggests that a strong positive critical response is necessary for converting ticket sales for these mega blockbusters. Yet, in an age when most people get their news about what’s coming down the pike direct from the source, they may not matter as much. In fact, despite overwhelming critical praise for The Last Jedi, the fan reaction was notably mixed. The film also experienced a massive drop-off in ticket sales over it’s first week. (Though, that has more to do with the timing of release and Christmas break than anything.) Strong word-of-mouth reactions from friends and families may help. However, the holiday break and movie-goers in search of a spectacle will likely flock to this film.
As for whether the legacy of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will match the first reactions, that remains to be seen. It took a full decade for the prequel trilogy to be given its due as a fine addition to the Star Wars canon. Also, expanded universe stories like The Clone Wars helped to deepen and enrich the stories from the films. As the kids who grew up with this as their Star Wars mature, and Lucasfilm goes back to the well for an animated series or two, then the legacy of this era will take shape.
In the meantime, all you can do is go to the film and try to enjoy it as best you can. Personally, I recommend setting aside all expectations or trying to outsmart the film. Just enjoy the story as it unfolds on the screen.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, reactions, and hopes for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and, if you are among the first to see it, your reviews in the comments.
Featured image via Lucasfilm
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.