‘The Last Jedi’ Reviews That Are Negative Would Do Well To Remember Joseph Campbell [Opinion]

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The Last Jedi reviews are in, right after the opening weekend at the box office, and it seems as though that while the critics are head-over-heels in love with the eighth installment of the so-called “Skywalker Saga,” the fans couldn’t be more divided about the film if there were a special guest appearance by Jar Jar Binks.

Warning: These Last Jedi reviews contain spoilers.

By now, it’s been revealed all over the galaxy that Luke Skywalker — the fulcrum upon which the Star Wars saga turns — dies at the end of the film. Rather than being killed in battle, or by one of his rogue students, Luke — like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda before him — becomes “one with the Force” after imparting one last piece of wisdom to his nephew, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, who steals the show and gives the villain more breadth and less emo-ness than in The Force Awakens).

Needless to say, the demise of this pop culture icon means that Last Jedi reviews from fans have been anything but positive. The Guardian compiled a list of some of the best-worst reviews from fans in the social media-sphere, and the reviews ranged from “Bantha poodoo” to “all the grace of a drunken Ewok.”


But fans who are quick to give negative Last Jedi reviews would do well to remember the following.

1. The Empire Strikes Back — the fifth installment of the saga and universally considered to be the “best Star Wars film made” — was critically excoriated at the time of its release. The official Star Wars website has a compendium of the old reviews of the film, and the sentiments echo those put forth by critical reviews of The Last Jedi. Writing for the New York Times, Vincent Canby said that the film was “a big, expensive, time-consuming, essentially mechanical operation. The Empire Strikes Back is about as personal as a Christmas card from a bank.” And that was just one of many critical reviews of the film — a far cry from the mutual admiration society that time would provide to the film. Will the harsh view of The Last Jedi similarly be softened with time?

2. Since Star Wars was first released in 1977, The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell has been almost “required reading” on the part of the fandom. And while today’s fans may not have gotten the memo — maybe because there hasn’t been an Instagram post about it, and it’s not part of the ReyLo ship (which, by the way, is alive and well now that it’s been confirmed that Rey has no familial tie to Kylo/Ben. Let the ship sail, kids! Although Kylo now has some competition in the form of Poe Dameron, and who doesn’t love them some Oscar Isaac?) — it should be required reading, because George Lucas himself confirmed that Luke Skywalker follows the so-called “Hero’s Journey.”

With that in mind, then, he’s going to come back — even if he only comes back one last time as a Force ghost, he’s going to come back.

If there’s one thing that the so-called “new trilogy” holds true to, it’s the so-called “Hero’s Journey.” In that regard, director Rian Johnson got the arc of the Luke Skywalker story right — and the critical Last Jedi reviews need to take a quick re-read of Campbell’s analysis, for their own sake.