Rian Johnson, 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' director, responds to fan backlash

Why is "The Last Jedi" so divisive?

The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has responded to the vicious online backlash about his first-ever Star Wars movie, and his reaction is quite calm in the face of such vitriol. Almost Jedi-like, if you will.

In addition to tweeting angrily at Johnson and writing critical reviews on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, self-proclaimed Star Wars fans have crafted a petition to get The Last Jedi stricken from the canon. Perturbed by what they interpret as inadequacies with character development and plot, the petition creators are upset with Johnson and production companies Disney and Lucasfilm.

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The petition, titled “Have Disney strike Star Wars Episode VIII from the official canon,” is composed by Last Jedi hater Henry Walsh. Initially, it had a 15,000-signature goal, but that’s now been upped to 35,000. As of this writing, it’s about 6,000 signatures away from reaching that target.

Despite all the rage pointed in his direction, Johnson was affable about the whole thing.

“The fans are so passionate, they care so deeply,” he said. “Sometimes they care very violently at me on Twitter. But it’s because they care about these things, and it hurts when you’re expecting something specific and you don’t get it from something that you love. I don’t take it personally if a fan reacts negatively and lashes out at me on Twitter. It’s my job to be there for that.”

“Every fan has a list of stuff they want a Star Wars movie to be and they don’t want a Star Wars movie to be. You’re going to find very few fans out there whose lists line up.”

He said the vast majority of fan reactions to the movie have been “really lovely,” so the negative reaction highlighted in the media is “not the full picture of the fans at all,” he attested.

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Johnson says he’s only following original director and creator George Lucas’ lead.

“I also know the same way the original movies were personal for Lucas,” he said. “Lucas never made a Star Wars movie by sitting down and thinking, ‘What do the fans want to see?’ And I knew if I wrote wondering what the fans would want, as tempting as that is, it wouldn’t work, because people would still be shouting at me, ‘F**k you, you ruined Star Wars,’ and I would make a bad movie. And ultimately, that’s the one thing nobody wants.”

In the petition, Georgia native Walsh says that The Last Jedi was disappointing on almost all levels.

“Star Wars has long been a story about two things, the Jedi and Luke Skywalker,” wrote Walsh. “After over 260 novels where we could follow the adventures of that great hero you, the Walt Disney Company decided to strike all of that from the official canon and wiped out three decades of lore. We were excited to see Episode VII to see how our heroes’ lives turned out since you took away what we knew. We saw the death of Han Solo, we saw less than a minute of Luke Skywalker.”

“Episode VIII was a travesty,” the petition continues. “It completely destroyed the legacy of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi. It destroyed the very reasons most of us, as fans, liked Star Wars. This can be fixed. Just as you wiped out 30 years of stories, we ask you to wipe out one more, ‘The Last Jedi.’ Remove it from canon, push back Episode IX and re-make Episode VIII properly to redeem Luke Skywalker’s legacy, integrity, and character.”

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“We stuck by you when you did things that hurt us before, so we ask you now, please don’t let this film stand. Don’t do this to us. Don’t take something so many of us loved so much and destroy it like this. Let us keep our heroes. Let us keep our heroes,” Walsh concluded.

Despite relatively positive Last Jedi reviews from critics, fan reaction hasn’t been as glowing. The movie has a meagre 56 per cent positive rating among viewers. (To compare, recent Star Wars movies had much higher audience scores: The Force Awakens had 88 per cent, while Rogue One had 87 per cent.)

At the box office, The Last Jedi was an unquestionable success, breaking Canadian records and becoming the country’s second-biggest opening weekend movie of all time (second only to The Force Awakens in 2015). According to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada, The Last Jedi brought in approximately $17 million in this country alone on opening weekend.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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