Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now in theaters, and the fandom is having a pretty strong reaction to it. For every fan that's calling The Last Jedi the best of the franchise, there's another fan claiming that it's one of the worst. In our own Comicbook.com video review, we quickly identified why this split in fan opinion is happening, and it has a lot to do with the Disney approach to making films.
We've seen how Disney/Lucasfilm's influence has caused some creative turbulence in the Star Wars standalone films Rogue One and Solo, resulting in everything from extensive reshoots to directorial shakeups. The reasoning behind these studio-driven changes has been to make each film in the franchise "on-brand," offering audiences the same signature blend of fun and adventure that are now considered guiding staples of the expanded Star Wars Universe.
The studio's controlling hand in the Star Wars standalones (which were once supposed by be very different, director-driven visions of the franchise) offers insight into what's also happened with the main Episodes. As much bigger and more crucial pieces of the Star Wars brand, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi have been Disney product, through and through.
The (Disney) Empire Strikes Back
Both Episode VII and Episode VIII are very much Disney movie product in the sense that both try - in a very contrived way - to check off boxes of demographic appeal and focus-group testing to create a Star Wars movie that appeals to the widest audience possible. That may not seem like an irregular practice for making a blockbuster film in today's market, but as the Star Wars brand grows, these "seams" of constructing the movie are all too noticeable. The Last Jedi doesn't just try to be a good Star Wars movie; it tries to be a great Star Wars movie for every type of fan.
If you jumped into the franchise during the Original Trilogy era, then there is plenty about Last Jedi's rehash of Empire Strikes Back that will give you serious feels, whether its the fate of some major OT characters, or some very special cameos from that era of the franchise. If you were a fan that got involved during the prequels era, then there are plenty of fun, lighter, adventure moments involving big CGI creatures and sequences, laid on top of a clear socio-political message. If you liked Rogue One, the opening sequence of The Last Jedi delivers the same sort of "by the will of The Force" desperate hopes of a military force that the first Star Wars standalone made famous. Have you been complaining about the lack of diversity in the franchise? Then there's plenty of shots in The Last Jedi dedicated to placating your concerns. As stated, this is Disney's attempt to deliver something for every type of Star Wars fan - which is why certain fans are coming away feeling like they haven't gotten very much of anything, at all.
The New Expectation
What should probably be understood is that this whole "a Star Wars for everyone" approach is not something that's going to fade away any time soon. With all of the massive box office hauls the new Star Wars movies are making, the "Disneyfication" issues raised about The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi are more likely going to be the new standard. What's somewhat sad is that this is almost the total opposite of what Star Wars was originally intended to be. George Lucas created the original film as a rebuttal of the studio system of the time, which would not believe in (or finance) his vision for a unique type of sci-fi/action adventure.
No matter what you criticisms there are of the OT or even the prequels, they are (for better or worse) a storytelling vision of orchestrated by a uniquely creative mind. What we have now is a series that's a product born of corporate benchmarks and viewer survey, with "twists" that are clearly cheap aversions to popular fan theories posted online. So, if you watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi and feel like something about it feels hollow, just know that you're not alone. We hear you.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now in theaters.