The latest movie, which raked in $220 million opening weekend, is fronted by women – which is an affront to some franchise fans blasting it on Rotten Tomatoes and social media.
Women are the Force in the “The Last Jedi” – the ninth live-action film in the “Star Wars” franchise.
The “Star Wars” galaxy has long been fronted by young, white men swinging lightsabers and piloting spaceships, which has built a rabid fan base over 40 years.
But — spoilers ahead — the most recent installment that has reeled in $220 million and counting at the box office, making it the second highest opening weekend ever (after its predecessor “The Force Awakens”) features fierce females, including:
- Jedi-in-training Rey (Daisy Ridley), who inherits the hero’s mantle from original trilogy lead Mark Hamill/Luke Skywalker. She’s also victorious in a jaw-dropping lightsaber battle in evil Supreme Leader Snokes’ throne room.
- Two respected, middle-aged Rebellion leaders, including Carrie Fisher’s General Leia – she’s dropped the “Princess” – and Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo. Fisher literally smacks down cocky pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) when he disobeys orders, telling him to “get your head out of your cockpit,” and Dern later shuts him down when he tries mansplaining her.
- A female gunner (Veronica Ngo’s Paige Tico) sacrifices herself to destroy a weapon of mass destruction, and her sister Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance worker, rises up to be a hero by the movie’s end. They’re also the first notable Asian women characters in the franchise.
In the original trilogy and the 2000-era sequels, you’d think that all of the powerful women in “Star Wars” were hidden in some galaxy far, far away. Yes, fangirls had Leia, a Rebel leader and sharpshooter with an even sharper tongue. But she was also dressed in a gratuitous gold bikini for a chunk of the third film.
“Carrie Fisher told me, ‘I would have liked to have had a lightsaber,’ and while she was happy to strangle Jabba the Hutt, she didn’t want to be in that metal bikini while she did it,” film critic and comic book writer Ethan Sacks told Moneyish. He’s also been a diehard fan of the series since seeing the original in 1977, when he was 4.
“I realize as I’m raising a 13-year-old daughter, who I’m trying to make as nerdy and geeky as I am, that when I was a kid, there were no action hero role models for girls in movies that weren’t R-rated,” he said. Sigourney Weaver’s “Alien” franchise and Linda Hamilton’s “Terminator 2” weren’t exactly family-friendly. “And I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that studios were run by men, and they were hiring directors that were men.
“Now, the most important person in the whole ‘Star Wars’ franchise is a woman,” he added, referring to Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm.
And there’s been a disturbance in the space saga’s formula. “The Force Awakens” rebooted the franchise in 2015 with an inclusive cast that included Ridley’s Rey and John Boyega’s black Stormtrooper. Then 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” saw Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso leading a motley crew of rebels (including a Hispanic rebel spy and two Asian men strongly hinted to be a gay couple) on a daring suicide mission.
While “The Last Jedi” audience demographics haven’t been broken down yet, the filmmakers credited the film’s inclusive casting with drawing more than $220 million in tickets over the weekend. “The results speak to the power of representation,” Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis told the Associated Press. “The film really reflects our world and beyond. It becomes something people can see themselves in, whether they see themselves in Rey or Finn or Poe or Rose or Captain Phasma. They can relate to all those characters.”
This diversity has helped divide the fanbase, however. “The Last Jedi” has scored a 93 out of 100 among critics on Rotten Tomatoes – but audiences have given it a dismal 57 rating on the site. There’s some evidence that trolls are skewing the numbers with bots automating the bad reviews to sink the ratings. ComScore/Screen Engine’s audience exit poll, which surveys moviegoers in real time, reported “The Last Jedi” earned an 89% overall positive score and a five-star rating from moviegoers, in comparison.
Some of the Rotten Tomatoes’ armchair critics complain that “The Last Jedi” is “the same crap they did with Ghostbusters, female for the sake of female, not because it was a good idea.” Another wrote, “Why is the resistance leadership all women? What is this – Mother’s [sic] Against the First Order?”
“The Last Jedi” is not a perfect movie, and there are many fans, male and female, tweeting their disappointment from issues that have nothing to do with the female cast, including plot holes and a lengthy 2-hour, 32-minute runtime.
But then there are tweets like these:
— DeplorableGeorgeIV (@177618122016USA) December 17, 2017
Has anyone noticed that the new Star Wars series is all feminist propaganda? #StarWarsTheLastJedi
— Gavin Hensley (@gavinjhensley) December 16, 2017
— Keiran Halcyon (@Lord_halcyon216) December 15, 2017
Some fans also flipped online three years ago when John Boyega was cast as a black Stormtrooper in “The Force Awakens.” He wrote, “Get used to it,” in an Instagram post.
And audiences are going to have to get used to women going where “Star Wars” men have gone before. “They can’t just sell to white boys and expect to make $220 million on opening weekend – and they shouldn’t,” said Sacks. “Some people don’t like it going in a different direction, but you can’t placate people who have a problem with a female Jedi, a black Stormtrooper and a Hispanic pilot.”
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