Just when we’ve come to terms with the CGI-infested, Jar Jar Binks-laden Phantom Menace, we’re treated to the equally disappointing Last Jedi. And this eighth instalment in the franchise has raised a significant and perplexing phenomenon.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi broke the critics.
In a world where the audience collectively awarded this film 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics bestowed a disproportionate amount of reverence on it. 93%. I’ll say that again. 93%. That’s THE SAME as A New Hope. 13% MORE than Return of the Jedi. It doesn’t take a womp rat to see that something has gone horribly, horribly wrong with the system. Even in this season of good will, I cannot identify with a profession that believes a movie with Princess Leia flying in space akin to Mary Poppins is as good as Episode IV…the birth of the franchise. The greatest sci-fi film ever made. A blue print and inspiration for so many film makers.
So, what went wrong?
My first theory is that the critics, those esteemed few who are invited to the glitzy and glamorous global premieres, were simply carried away in the moment. They lost their acerbic edges as stormtoopers whisked them in to the theatre while BB-8 danced around their feet. They simply failed to function objectively as the auditorium whooped and cheered as the scroll began. They broke down into a pliable and doughy mess when the 153 minutes came to an end and the rousing John Williams tour de force took hold. How could any human not lavish praise on a project when, after that emotional fanfare, stewards dish out R2D2 popsicles while a life sized C-3PO glistens under the foyer lights? At that very moment, in every premiere around the world, the critics fell foul to a mass hysteria losing the one thing they all hold dear; their complete and unfettered impartiality.
The second possibility for their review bonanza is that they feared the wrath of the fans. Not knowing how it would be received by the masses or, assuming that the masses would love the film regardless, the critics bent a knee to a repressed inner fear that should never materialize. They were scared that if they gave The Last Jedi a bad review while the fans loved it, their worth would be questioned, and their abilities bought it to question. They would be hounded on social media and vilified for not loving or appreciating the biggest film in the history of cinema. Who would want that on their CV? Deep down, critics were guided to make a critical decision based on insecurity and the knowledge that a big thumbs up would be a universally safe and accepted appraisal. Bar 7% of the 313 critics counted, they knew that there was only one safe way to go when it came to the most anticipated film of the millennia.
And finally, a third explanation. 93% of critics really did genuinely love it. They saw in The Last Jedi things that 45% of the surveyed audience (all 120,000 of us) failed to see. But honestly, I find this last reason a stretch because acclaim for The Last Jedi contrasts with the bile poured on Episodes I, II or III. The poor scripts. The weak story lines. The CGI. The wasted characters. All attributes that exist in Episode VIII.
So, what can we conclude from my purely arbitrary and somewhat hackneyed theories? Well, I think it’s most likely to be a mix of all three which, for the world of the critic, is a worry. Of course, every opinion is subjective which is why one looks at reviews and feedback as a whole. While I do disagree with some, I generally need these people in my life, aggregating their contributions to create a reliable barometer as to whether I should see a film or not. But when these global professionals are so far removed from the audience (almost 40% removed), there is an obvious and apparent glitch in the industry.
After years and years of stress testing, it took the biggest film ever made to finally expose this hole in the profession. And they have until Episode 9 to get to get it fixed.