Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues to be a box office success, after passing the $1 billion mark at the end of 2017. Though the Rian Johnson-directed film is still behind its two predecessors, Rogue One and The Force Awakens, what really troubles cinephiles is the discrepancy between its Rotten Tomatoes critics score (90 percent as of this post) and its audience score (49 percent). The 41 percent enigma has been credited to everything to the film’s “feminist” storyline to angry internet trolls.
Of course a simpler explanation is that audiences just didn’t like the film, but beyond liking it, the film may have not been exactly what fans were expecting. That’s what Clerks director Kevin Smith thinks anyway. As pointed out by Uproxx, Smith shared his theory on his Fat Man on Batman podcast as to why the ratings gap is so wide. “I think at the end of the day, audience expectation plays into that,” he said. “Like when, you know, you’re like, ‘Alright the next movie is going to be all about Luke and I’ve seen Luke in the trailer and I know exactly who Luke Skywalker is and now he looks like Obi-Wan so he’s going to be like this version of Obi-Wan,’ and then they give you a version of Luke that even Mark Hamill reportedly was like ‘I don’t know, is this really supposed to be Luke Skywalker? He’s not the one I remember.'”
Smith remarks that the discrepancy between previous portrayals of characters and Johnson's take particularly disarm people who have loved and watched Star Wars from the beginning. “Some people, it hit them the wrong way in a big way,” Smith said. “I’ve seen, it’s not just people going like, ‘Oh, I didn’t like it,’ when they don’t like it. It’s vitriolic, as if somebody fucked up their childhood.”
Smith also makes the argument that fans were more critical of the film, because of it’s placement in the middle of the latest Star Wars trilogy. Thanks to Johnson’s character subversions and the position of the film in the series, Smith thinks The Last Jedi had a tougher task of pleasing audiences. “With Force Awakens you get the nostalgia rush, like, maybe we weren’t as judgy about that movie as people are being about Last Jedi,” Smith says. “Now that they’ve had that moment, the next one had a tall order because you lose the joy of surprise and like your childhood is back and shit and now you just have to tell a real story.”