After seeing both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in theaters opening night, the audience tone was noticeably different.Warning! There are a few spoilers ahead. I've tried to keep them to a minimum, but if you haven't seen the movie yet and didn't want to know what happens, I would recommend seeing the movie first and coming back to read this article.
I think a lot of factors played into this. The first being the expectation set for the second film in the sequel trilogy. JJ Abrams opened the new trilogy with a bang. The characters, story, and everything else about it was all fresh, and we didn't know much going in so we were all excited to see how it was going to play out. I remember watching video after video and reading articles and speculations about The Force Awakens and putting together new ideas in my head and reading the feedback from other fans. Now that we know the characters and the beginning of their story, we're hyper-critical about how we want the rest of it to play out and have set the expectation so high that almost anything seems to disappoint.
The film also received a 93% critic approval rating which could have set the expectation even higher for a lot of fans. Personally, I don't take critic reviews to heart much since they're almost always the opposite of how I feel about a movie after seeing it myself.
The second factor could be that people believe Disney is trying to shove Star Wars down their throats too much with the faster turnaround times for the saga films and anthology films in between. In my eyes, the anthology films are just a bonus to the Star Wars franchise. So far I've been okay with watching them once in the theater and leaving it at that. Rogue One was an okay story but quick to introduce and kill off too many characters in too short of time. I feel like Solo: A Star Wars Story is going to have the same effect for me when it's released this upcoming summer. But with that and all the merchandising, I'd say it's a fair bet that people feel rushed into a story that they already believe isn't going to fit their requirements of a good story before going in to see it.
With that said, I will admit that The Force Awakens did have a lot more comedic and "cheerable" moments than The Last Jedi, however, the latest film took a much deeper look into the characters' stories and how their role will play out in the final film of the trilogy.
A lot happened between all sides, Jedi, The Resistance, and the First Order, and all sides endured major casualties almost leaving no one left. About halfway through the film, I thought "are they even going to have enough left to create a third film for the trilogy?"
Some disappointments from a lot of fans were with Rey and Snoke. Kylo Ren dismissed the theory of Rey's parents coming back by saying they didn't care about Rey and left her on Jakku for drinking money never to return. But the question remains on whether he knew this to be true or if he was trying to anger Rey and turn her to the Dark Side. The Last Jedi explored her parentage very minimally and approached it similar to The Empire Strikes Back when Luke battled Darth Vader on Dagobah only to find himself underneath the mask.
In addition to Rey's parentage was Snoke. He was built up to be this all-powerful character that couldn't be defeated in both films but was killed off quickly by Kylo Ren. The Praetorian Guards in Snoke's throne room seemed like more of a match during their battle with Rey and Ren than Snoke did, who didn't even have a chance to put up a fight.
However, after doing some thinking about the characters, I feel the point of them was to establish an understanding that you don't have to come from powerful upbringings or a detailed past to have significance in the story and I think that's what Rian Johnson's intention was with both characters. He even said in previous interviews that he wasn't interested in showing his backstory much in the film.
The third disappointment to a lot of fans, myself included on this one, was the number of questions still left to be answered. I know that's to be expected, but we still don't know anything or have seen anything additional on The Knights of Ren or even know if they exist or not anymore. The flashback scene from The Force Awakens showed the Knights of Ren in what we assumed to be the aftermath of the Jedi Temple being burned down but they still have not made an appearance in the current part of the story, nor do we know if they ever will at this point. Also, we don't know what's going to happen to Leia's character played by the late Carrie Fisher. Her character survives at the end of the film, even after plummeting into space and freezing, she still managed to pull herself back in and survive to the end. I'm hoping this isn't the last we'll see of her character, but it's hard to tell at this point what Disney and Lucasfilm will do.
With all the negatives out there, I thought the overall story was great and was pulled to the edge of my seat throughout most of it. The one thing I like to keep in mind is that there are openings for new things to happen in the story, surprise, new Force powers, etc. Just because they weren't introduced in the original trilogy doesn't mean they can't explore new things in the sequel trilogy.
Although a lot of what happened in The Last Jedi is still open for interpretation, it was overall a fun film. A lot to take in and process, but I can't wait to go back to see it in the theaters again. I'm sure there are things that I missed in the first showing that I can find. But, either way, more blog posts, theories, and interpretations to come!
What did you think of The Last Jedi and what do you think is in store for Episode IX? Let us know in the comments!