In the internet era, nuance is being lost
It's been about two weeks and two subsequent viewings since I first saw “The Last Jedi.” And I still don't get the supposed fan backlash.
My initial take was that it was an excellent advancement of the saga with some welcome and unexpected turns, as well as some flaws. I initially gave it four stars out of five, until my editor joked, “Only four?” and I relented and bumped it to five.
Repeat viewings have revealed that to be the right call for me, as initial plot holes are discovered to be patched and the larger arc of central characters even more impressive.
I initially thought that reaction would be “good” to “great” among fans. I thought, at a minimum, no one could possibly hate it. I guess I thought wrong.
First off, the “backlash” I'm speaking of here is admittedly overblown, fueled by a low user rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which is in itself a ridiculous gauge of actual sentiment and possibly fueled by trolls.
But it got me, a lifelong “Star Wars” fan and movie critic, thinking about how we got here. And, like many of our societal ills in 2017, we can blame the accidental impact of social media.
I've been reviewing movies for about two decades now. The one I always credit with really teaching me how to be a critic? “Bring It On.”
The Kirsten Dunst vehicle was not high art. It wasn't what a serious movie critic was supposed to like. But it was the movie that made me realize that many of our opinions of something as subjective as a movie were cased in thinking about what liking or disliking something says about us.
This was also 17 years ago, when I was fortunate enough to have a public outlet for my (again, subjective) opinion about movies. Now? Everyone with a Twitter or Facebook account has an audience.
The downside of that is the validation that only the strongest opinions get. “I thought ‘The Last Jedi' was pretty good but had its flaws” gets less traction than, say, “Rian Johnson might as well have set my entire childhood on fire, and I hope he dies in one.”
I can't think of a more fitting analogy for life in 2017. Our most extreme opinions are validated and magnified. Nuance is vanishing, as is the ability to see anything as anything but black and white.
Is there more at play here? Of course. I could write another article entirely about how expectation plays into our experience with a movie (which is why “Last Jedi” gets backlash and “The Force Awakens” is more universally loved).
But if you want to make a resolution for 2018, may I suggest disconnecting from social media? Or at least thinking before you tweet.