Star Wars: The Last Jedi was always going to have a lot to live up to following the monumental success of The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and looking at its opening weekend box office and critical response, it did just that.
Rian Johnson’s latest movie, and his first in the Star Wars franchise, has earned a staggering $450 million – around £337 million – since it opened across the world on Thursday December 14, putting it fifth on the world record list for biggest opening weekend. Critics have universally adored Episode VIII too, with reviews aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic giving it a 93% fresh and 86 rating, respectively.
Even CinemaScore – a market research company that conducts exit polls with audiences to establish letter grades and box office forecasts for new movies – awarded the film an A grade after conducting quantitative research on Friday night, from 35 to 45 pollster teams, in 25 cities across the US.
However, there seems to be a huge disparity between what the critics and CinemaScore say and the audiences leaving their user ratings on the same aggregator websites. In fact, Rotten Tomatoes has just a 56% audience approval rating while MetaCritic’s user score is just 4.9 out of ten.
So why is there such a massive gap between what these audience members think and what the critics do? Well, trolling has a lot to do with it. Sites like Rotten Tomatoes and MetaCritic are not strict with who can write user reviews so often fans can manipulate results to make it look like a film is not as well received as it actually is. Some of these people are even bragging about it online.
Deadline discovered one Facebook page called “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys” that claims it is responsible for the low rating for The Last Jedi, admitting to using bot accounts to corrupt the score: “Thanks to friends of mine who taught me a thing or two about Bot Accounts, I used them to create this audience score through Facebook accounts created that subsequently logged into Rotten Tomatoes who rigged this score and still keep it dropping.”
However ludicrous it might seem to go to these lengths to tank a movie’s audience rating, there’s obviously a reason certain fans don’t like the direction Rian Johnson has taken the Star Wars franchise, which has moved away from the dynastical focus of the first seven films as well as changed what we thought to be universal truths about the Force.
Looking to the official discussion thread on Reddit, some of the main issues that bothered people included the casino scenes on Canto Bight, which they felt didn’t really amount to much in the end, and the screen time that could have been spent on Rey and Luke doing some Jedi training.
Another criticism was the decision to not end the film after an impressive lightsaber battle as well as the focus on comedy that was amped considerably in this film. Though the biggest objection seems to be the treatment of original characters and their purpose in The Last Jedi compared to new characters introduced in this film or The Force Awakens.
These “hardcore” fans may feel that the franchise they love has been butchered or something equally as melodramatic, but they are really just a vocal minority who do not represent the substantially more fans who were impressed with Johnson’s Star Wars offering.
It wouldn’t be the first time that certain members of a fanbase take issue with new movies in a franchise, or even the cinematic adaptations of a comic book property, but the fact that millions of tickets are continually being bought – and the unadulterated CinemaScore rating is so high – should be seen as more of an indicator of Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s perceived quality than a manipulated audience score on a reviews aggregator site.
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