One thing we Star Wars fans get our undies in a twist about still is the whole backlash on Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi. The movie was a hit with critics, but didn’t quite hit a home run for some of the fan base, myself included, as I’m sure our regular readers are fully aware.
We have one side who seemingly cannot understand what some fans see in this movie, and another who think people like me are crazy as it was the best Star Wars movie since Empire. Quite the divide, and it is something we hear at LRM have discussed ’till we are blue in the face. Probably, the thing that keeps us going is the fact that our Editor-in-Chief Joseph Jammer Medina infamously ranked The Last Jedi above Empire when he ranked all Star Wars movies on LRM Ranks It. It’s also the reason why Kyle Malone and I were eager to have Jammer appear on our Last Call Podcast‘s for both Empire and The Last Jedi specifically.
See, I am totally fine with people loving The Last Jedi, after all, all movies are subjective, but I could not get my head around anyone thinking it was an overall better movie than Empire. It’s something we hope to convince Jammer of (unlikely) in November’s Last Call Podcast, as Empire‘s has already been published, so go listen to it.
Well, Rian Johnson recently spoke with Uproxx about his new movie Knives Out and while talk was focused on that movie, things did inevitably turn to The Last Jedi. The interviewer tried to liken the response to Johnson’s movie with the early response to Empire and, well see for yourself.
Uproxx: Younger people are surprised to learn The Empire Strikes Back wasn’t the consensus “best Star Wars movie” until maybe even the ’90s. It was polarizing for quite some time.
Uproxx: The trajectory of The Last Jedi reminds me of that.
Johnson: I’m a little wary to talk about that, because I don’t want to sound like, I don’t know, like I’m defending anything or something.
Uproxx: I don’t think you have to defend anything.
Johnson: So, I’m a little wary that even I answer one question about it, and not on you, but then a thousand other outlets suddenly pick it up and it’s like, suddenly, it looks like it’s just all talking about Star Wars.
Uproxx: Right. As opposed to everything we just talked about before this.
Johnson: That’s the thing. But, as a kid, I distinctly remember being disappointed by The Empire Strikes Back.
Uproxx: Was that the first one you saw?
Johnson: That was my first one.
Uproxx: Me, too. Because you couldn’t just “watch Star Wars” like now. It’s whatever was in the theater at the time.
Johnson: I think my dad took me when I was really young to see A New Hope. Yeah, no, I remember, especially in the context of Return of the Jedi, which as a kid I adored. And so, yeah, I remember very vividly. But then Empire slowly became my favorite one. Look, man, same about you, we were in our twenties when the Prequels came out.
Uproxx: The weird thing about Empire was I had the toys before I saw it. All the older kids had been telling me how fun the original Star Wars is. Then Empire is released and my parents take me and it’s like, what the hell was that?
Johnson: Luke gets symbolically castrated by his father.
Uproxx: As a little kid it’s like, I thought this was supposed to be fun?
Johnson: Yeah. It sticks. That’s why that’s the one that, even though at that time I had that reaction to it, it stuck in me and it resonated with me. I remember the Prequels, that acrimony of the prequels. I think people forget exactly the tenor of the danger. We remember because we were in the thick of it. So, I mean, I don’t know. I think that anything with a passionate following always has a passionate following and Star Wars is that, even more so. You can’t be angry at one side of it when it’s also the reason the positive is so passionate, you know? It’s all part of the same thing and it always was like this basic thing. That’s why I love it.
Let’s be clear here. It was the interviewer and not Johnson who compared the reception of The Last Jedi to Empire. It actually seems like Johnson is reluctant to go down that path. However, I have a few issues with this general comparison (shocker eh?) between Empire‘s reception and The Last Jedi. For a start, all we can do now to look at Empire‘s reception is read some printed reviews that appeared at the time, if we did that with The Last Jedi, then, well it was a massive success critically when you think back wasn’t it? What we don’t have and will never have from Empire, is the fan responses at the time, because there was simply no place to express those thoughts outside of verbal interactions.
Now, when Jammer, Kyle Malone and myself discussed Empire recently, we all had similar feelings of not truly understanding it when we were kids, and yet growing to love it as the best of the bunch in later years. However, comparing that to The Last Jedi is wrong in my opinion, the key difference being that I was not a kid when I watched The Last Jedi. I didn’t have to mature to learn to appreciate the nuances within the movie or the performances. I was already a staff writer for LRM when that movie came out and therefore my opinion of it, is simply not comparable to not liking Empire as much as Star Wars when I was a kid. I keep hearing from other readers and other fanboys that, in time, fans will appreciate just how good The Last Jedi was and I completely disagree with that. Even if The Rise of Skywalker is amazing, (something I have my doubts about by the way), I’m still not going to suddenly realize that The Last Jedi was really good and it was something I had to grow into.
Now, maybe you are one of those who loves The Last Jedi and want to rush on here to tell me I’m wrong, that’s fine, and feel free. However, I am not discussing the good and bad of that film here, what I am saying is simply that I don’t feel comparing fan responses to The Last Jedi and ancient critic responses for The Empire Strikes Back is fair. It feels like an excuse to say why fans didn’t like The Last Jedi, and once again attempt to marginalize those fans as simply deluded or wrong, which doesn’t work for me.
Again though, I have to say that Johnson did his best here to not feel like he was having to defend his movie, he doesn’t, he made the movie he wanted, he is proud of that movie. However, I and some other fans also have the right to say we just didn’t like it. Oh and finally, Johnson was totally right about fans ignoring what he said about Knives Out and heading straight for the Star Wars comments, that’s just the nature of Star Wars fandom, or any other passionate fan base, of course, people are going to talk about anything Johnson says when it comes to Star Wars from now on.
What do you think of this comparison, and/or Johnson’s comments? Shout at me below as always. I can take it.
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