“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has been in theaters for exactly one month as of January 15, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it has been much longer since the polarizing reaction was so deafening in the weeks that followed. Filmmaker and outspoken “Star Wars” fanatic Kevin Smith has finally gotten around to addressing the backlash on his “Fatman On Batman” podcast, and he calls the response “vitriolic.”
“Some people, it hit them the wrong way in a big way,” Smith says. “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.”
For Smith, audience expectation played directly into the backlash surrounding the film. He says many fans expected “The Last Jedi” to be heavily focused on Luke Skywalker following the cliffhanger at the end of “The Force Awakens.” Even the trailers suggested Luke playing a much more prominent role and becoming an Obi-Wan figure to Rey. While Rian Johnson’s script did turn Luke into a mentor of sorts, he was hardly the film’s central figure. The character’s curmudgeon attitude also drew complaints from fans.
“I think at the end of the day, audience expectation plays into [the backlash],” Smith explains. “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 explains that “The Force Awakens” was the easier movie to like because it provided the “nostalgia rush” of being back in the “Star Wars” universe. The movie also “didn’t have a trace of Jar Jar in it,” which made it that much stronger.
You can listen to Smith talk about “The Last Jedi” backlash in further detail in the podcast below.