Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi is breaking box-office records and faring well with critics, and yet it would be easy to mistake it for a Phantom Menace-level disappointment. Fan reviews of the film have been, at first glance, noticeably chillier than the film’s critical reception—just look at the disparity between what critics and fans thought over at Rotten Tomatoes.
An aggregate of critics’ reviews shows an average score of 8.2 out of 10, with 93 percent of critics giving the film a positive review. In contrast, only 56 percent of user ratings on Rotten Tomatoes were positive. That’s the worst audience rating on the site of any Star Wars movie, even Attack of the Clones, which received a positive rating from 57 percent of users.
But that “audience score” doesn’t tell the whole story. For starters, passionate fans are more likely to leave ratings in the first place, and the naysayers in The Last Jedi’s case are very passionate. On top of that, Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t verify its reviews, so there’s no way of distinguishing between someone who has actually seen the film and someone who is leaving a rating without having seen it—or posting negative reviews from multiple fake accounts. At least one disgruntled fanboy has claimed credit for tanking the film’s Rotten Tomatoes rating using bots. In other words: There’s a small group of vocal fans who didn’t like the movie or don’t want to like it, and their hate has made them powerful.
To better understand what audiences really thought, skip the Tomatometer and follow the money. The film grossed an estimated $220 million at the domestic box office this weekend, the second-highest opening ever. (The only film it didn’t beat was its predecessor, The Force Awakens.) And The Last Jedi fared much better on sites like CinemaScore, which polls viewers as they’re leaving the theater.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have real detractors. There are those with legitimate criticisms about the film’s tone or twists, and then there’s this guy, who straight-up burned his Star Wars shirt, presumably because The Last Jedi … uh, I want to say, erased the original trilogy from existence, Back to the Future-style, so that he couldn’t enjoy it anymore? Unclear, but I’m guessing he’s also the type to leave a review.