‘The Last Jedi’ Positive Reviews May Have Come From Financial And Social Pressure [Opinion]

The extreme difference between critical and audience reception for 'The Last Jedi' exposes something important.

The Last Jedi earned great reviews
Jesse Grant / Getty Images

The extreme difference between critical and audience reception for 'The Last Jedi' exposes something important.

It’s quite interesting. The critical aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, which has itself been questioned, rates Star Wars: The Last Jedi at 93 percent. When reading some of the reviews, one would think that the film, which opened this weekend, is the best since Gone with the Wind.

Christopher Orr from The Atlantic apparently thinks The Last Jedi is the best in the series since The Empire Strikes Back.

“The Last Jedi probably does the best job of any Star Wars film of capturing the allure of the Dark Side and the spiritual turmoil that would lead to-and also result from-its embrace.”

Really? Did he see the same film that audiences are panning left and right? Apparently, veteran movie critic Peter Travers, who writes for Rolling Stone, is also drinking the Kool-Aid. In a 3.5/4 star review, he claims that the latest Star Wars chapter is the epic we’ve been looking for. He even says Mark Hamill’s performance is the best of his career.

Critics have been going out of their way to rave about The Last Jedi in a way that seems scripted and calculated. There has always been suspicion that studios either pay cash or give special gifts for good reviews. This hasn’t been proven to be a major practice, but the unnecessarily glowing reviews for The Last Jedi could easily make people think it is.

The Last Jedi Reviews
There is something behind the fawning reviews of ‘The Last Jedi.” Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Now, let’s look at some of the reviews from people who don’t work at magazines and websites that depend on advertising revenue from studios.

“This…was a bad movie,” says Reddit poster Notoriousmts,” adding that he thinks director Rian Johnson has burned the Star Wars empire down to the ground.

Many others on the popular thread about The Last Jedi agree. BeauBurn asks if Disney, who purchased Lucasfilms, has also purchased Rotten Tomatoes. Many of the negative commenters on Reddit aren’t haters; they showed nothing but excitement before seeing the movie. And it’s hard to find any discussion on the internet where people aren’t ripping The Last Jedi to shreds.

Then, there is Twitter, where “The Last Jedi Awful” was one of the top trends on Friday.

You can blame all the negativity on loud trolls. But after this author saw the film at a midnight showing on Thursday evening, people, who were cheering loudly when The Last Jedi started, walked out disturbed. The best way to describe the reaction is one where $1000 is promised, but only $10 is actually paid. There were comments about wasted money, wasted time, and just about everybody agreed that Princess Leia’s flight into space seemed like more like a SNL joke than an actual plot line.

So, how could The Last Jedi earn a mediocre score of 56 percent on Rotten Tomatoes from audiences and a 93 percent from critics? Is there really money involved? As one who has reviewed films, albums, concerts, and technology products for years, it has to be said that money, vacations, or expensive gifts are sometimes directly offered, but it’s certainly not the norm.

Sometimes, the studio or PR company will go out of their way to make you feel “comfortable” at the film, offering you all-you-can-eat popcorn and all-you-can-drink sodas. They may even let you meet one of the film’s stars. However, in the case of The Last Jedi, the extreme fawning over the mediocre film may have something to do with advertising revenue from Disney and affiliates. If a big company such as Disney pulls an add from a site, a significant amount of money is lost. So, it’s quite possible that all these major websites may not want to upset Disney, especially since many careers are dependent on the success of The Last Jedi.

There are other factors that come into play, such as the death of Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) last year. Perhaps some outlets thought it would be tasteless to give a negative review to Fisher’s very last film. But by praising Fisher’s laughable performance in the film, they are actually insulting her legacy.

The extreme difference between the (possibly obligatory) fantastic reviews and the negative audience reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi has certainly opened up a can of worms. And we will hopefully find out soon just what caused this difference.