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Fans Were Just As Divided Over Empire Strikes Back As They Are About The Last Jedi

Rey on Star Wars: The Last Jedi poster

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been called “the most controversial Star Wars movie ever” and “the most divisive Star Wars movie yet.” It’s inspired strong and contradictory reactions from both critics and audiences, with some loving the new direction and others feeling it didn’t honor the films before it. However, A Critical Hit looked back into the fanzine archives and found that this is hardly the first Star Wars film to divide the fandom. Empire, widely considered the best Star Wars film, also inspired plenty of contention.

For example, Starlog staff writer David Gerrold wrote the below critiques of Empire in his official review. You’ll recognize the general themes – not agreeing with the critics, complaints about the structure – from many criticisms of The Last Jedi.

I liked it. I really did. I just didn’t like it enough.

Just about every other critic in the country has been telling you how good the picture is; they’ve been falling over themselves to tell you. It’s embarrassing. I feel guilty for not liking it as much as I’m supposed to.


Structurally, the film is flawed by its need to imitate its predecessor’s “formula” of fast-paced cross-cutting. We cut back and forth between Luke and Yoda on Dagobah and Leia and Han in the asteroids, and the time sense of both sets of events is distorted. How long were Han and Leia fleeing? How long is Luke studying?

Fans also disagreed about their favorite ships, just like they do today. Fan Carol Kane, quoted below, was very annoyed that Leia hooked up with “hot lips” Han Solo instead of “nice guy” Luke Skywalker.

C’mon Leia, why don’t you take a look around? Can’t you see what Luke is up against? You could have a “nice guy” like him. Instead, you are turning your back on him. Forget that it was Luke that saved you from having your atoms scattered throughout the galaxy. Forget that it was Luke, and not Han Solo, that wanted you rescued from the Death Star detention area. But you don’t need to remember all that, Leia. As long as hot-lips Han is around, who needs Luke anyway?

And then there’s SJW fake geek girl Richard Hess over here, seen below inserting his newfangled “political correctness” and leftist politics into a franchise whose fans have never cared about that! No one ever worried about this with original tril … oh, wait. Tag every reactionary fanboy you know.

George Lucas has made a movie even more racist and sexist than the first. I would think that Billy Dee Williams would resent being the token black in the film. Also, there was only one other woman, apart from Carrie Fisher, in the movie.

This one from Arlene Bahrenburg, which references having “1,095 days to draw my own conclusions,” felt the most modern. It points to our wonderful, weird fan culture of theories, guesses, and speculation.

And, one of the biggest questions in my mind is who is Yoda’s “other” student? Could it possibly be a girl — a love interest for Luke? I have 1,095 days in which to draw my own conclusions.

I loved reading through these, because they highlight the ways that fandom has stayed the same over the years, and the fact that these excited, contentious, and passionate discussions have been happening forever.

Of course, one of the chief differences in the discourse today is in fans’ relationships to creatives. Fans now have immediate access to directors, actors, and writers on social media. This not only gives them a space in which to directly interact with the people who make what they love, but it also means they can post their reactions immediately. Instead of sitting down to write and post a letter, which takes time and gives you a cooling-off period, they can just spout off immediately after getting out of the theater—or even while they watch, by live-tweeting the experience.

The result can certainly make fan culture feel more toxic, more intense, or more invasive, but the underlying questions about Star Wars have always been there.

(Via A Critical Hit and io9; image: Walt Disney Studios and Lucasfilm)

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